Watch his 2015 talk: "How numbers challenge educational myths"
Professor Tooley has published widely on the role of government in education. His particular focus is on the phenomenon of low-cost private schools in developing countries.
His book, “The Beautiful Tree: A personal journey into how the world’s poorest are educating themselves”, published by Penguin, featured in several Indian non-fiction best-sellers lists in 2009. It has just been launched as a paperback and audio book (Cato Institute, Washington DC). The book builds on his ground-breaking research on private education for the poor in India, China and Africa, for which Tooley was awarded gold prize in the first International Finance Corporation/Financial Times Private Sector Development Competition. Following on from this, he was founding president of the Education Fund, Orient Global, living for two years in Hyderabad, India (on unpaid leave from the University), where he helped create a chain of low cost private schools and associated educational infrastructure.
He is co-founder and chairman of Omega Schools Franchise Ltd, a chain of low-cost private schools in Ghana. Its first two schools opened in 2009, and it has grown to 40 schools with 20,000 students, with significant investment from Pearson’s Affordable Learning Fund.
Tooley has also created embryonic chains of low-cost private schools in Sierra Leone and India. He is the patron of AFED - the Association of Formidable Educational Development - in Nigeria, an association of 3,000 low-cost private schools.
Prior to joining Newcastle University, Professor Tooley previously taught and researched at the Universities of Oxford and Manchester, England; Simon Fraser University, Canada; and University of the Western Cape, South Africa. His PhD is from the Institute of Education, University of London. His first job was a mathematics high school teacher in Zimbabwe.
His work featured in a American PBS documentary, profiled alongside the work of Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus and Grameen Bank. It also featured in a documentary for BBC World and on BBC Newsnight. He has been described in the pages of Philanthropy magazine as “a 21st century Indiana Jones” travelling to “the remotest regions on Earth researching something that many regard as mythical: private, parent-funded schools serving the Third World poor.