IF SPENDING IS a measure of what matters, then the people of the developing world place a high value on brains. While private spending on education has not budged in real terms in the rich world in the past ten years, in China and India it has more than doubled. The Chinese now spend 5% of household income on education and the Indians 4%, compared with 2.5% for the Americans and 1% for the Europeans. As a result, private schooling, tuition, vocational and tertiary education are booming in developing countries (see our Special report). Since brainpower is the primary generator of progress, this burst of enthusiasm for investing in human capital is excellent news for the world. But not everybody is delighted. Because private education increases inequality, some governments are trying to stop its advance. That’s wrong: they should welcome it, but spread its benefits more widely. Education used to be provided by religious institutions or entrepreneurs. But when governments, starting in Prussia in the 18th century, got into the business of nation-building, they realised they could use education to shape young minds. As state systems grew, private schooling was left to the elite and the pious. Now it is enjoying a resurgence, for several reasons. Incomes are rising, especially among the better off, at the same time as birth rates are falling. In China the former one-child policy means that six people—two parents and four grandparents—can pour money into educating a single child. The growth of the knowledge economy means that the returns to education are rising at the same time as the opportunities available to those without any schooling are shrinking.