Governments around the world are not capable of providing "education for all", a controversial North academic has argued.
A study by Newcastle University professor James Tooley says that in developing countries, private schools for the poor offer the best method of reaching targets set of getting all children into education by 2015.
Prof Tooley argues that private schools in the Third World are often superior to state schools and has called on the international community to throw its weight behind fee-charging schools.
The study, published in the Journal of the Institute of Economic Affairs, is the latest controversial statement from Prof Tooley, who was once described as the "high priest of privatisation" for his championing of the private sector.
He also courted controversy with his book The Miseducation of Women, which said that women had become unhappier as a result of concentrating more on their careers than the family role they once fulfilled.
Last year he wrote a report calling for tax breaks for parents who wanted to send their children to private schools.
He is also trying to set up a "budget private school" in the North-East as an alternative to state education.
In his study for the Institute of Economic Affairs, he says: "Across the developing world, poor parents are making their preferences clear.
"They want schools that are accountable to them, where teachers turn up and teach.
"They want private schools. It is time the development experts caught up with them." Governments from around the world set a target of education for all by the year 2000 at a conference held in Thailand in 1990.
That target was revised to 2015 when it was not met, with the Education for All movement saying that the prime responsibility for schooling should be on national governments.
Prof Tooley argues that many state schools in developing countries are corrupt and of a poor standard, and says that thousands of parents are turning to fee-paying schools as the best way of educating their children.
He called for a voucher system to be set up to allow parents to choose the best schools for their youngsters.
But his argument has come in for criticism from Kevin Watkins, director of the UN Human Development Report Office and the former head of research for Oxfam UK.
Mr Watkins said that private education is only available to the better-off in developing countries and that Prof Tooley's dependence on market forces would only increase inequalities in the Third World.
He said: "We are told that payments to private schools serving the poor are `very low' at just under $4 a month, and therefore affordable.
"The problem with a notion like affordability is that it can look very different when considered from a professorial office in Newcastle University and from a slum in India.
"My estimate is that if the figure of $4 is correct, it would cost a family living on a minimum wage in Hyderabad roughly one-quarter of its income to put three children though primary school."