Using the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data on the ability of women at various levels of schooling attainment to read a simple sentence, we show that reaching universal completion of grade six among girls would not bring the world anywhere close to the goal of universal female literacy.
Behind the learning crisis in much of the developing world is a huge data gap.
Children in developing countries get lots of schooling, but they are not necessarily learning. To address this, countries need new forms of feedback, experimentation, and financing that conventional aid is ill-suited to provide. This paper reviews experiences with an unconventional aid modality—paying for results—as it could apply to learning. The paper explains how such a program could be implemented and accelerate institutional changes needed to improve student learning.
The Rebirth of Education: Why Schooling in Developing Countries Is Flailing; How the Developed World Is Complicit; and What to Do Next
The poor quality of education worldwide constitutes a learning crisis; donors and development agencies have been complicit in its creation, but they can and should be part of the solution, not by prescribing changes, but by fostering environments where change is possible.
With abundant data, sound analysis, and first-hand experience, Lant Pritchett shows that the way to turn underperforming schools around is to allow functional systems to evolve locally out of an environment pressured for success. Schools systems need to be open to variety and experimentation, locally operated, and flexibly financed. The only main cost is ceding control; the reward would be the rebirth of education suited for today’s world.
Most of the world’s children now live in countries on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary completion by 2015. Countries have indeed made great progress getting kids in school, but behind that progress is a problem: many children are hardly learning anything in school. Some measures of learning are just dismal. In India, for example, only about one-third of children in grade 5 can perform long division. Nearly one-half cannot read a grade 2 text, and one in five cannot follow a grade 1 text.
What is to be done? Broadly speaking, schools, governments, and donors need to focus more on actual learning goals, not just filling seats. This report of the CGD Study Group on Measuring Learning Outcomes shows how to make some headway in that direction. Governments need to develop comparable, public learning assessments. Civil society should engage at the grassroots to demand accountability. Donors can play a secondary role by pegging funding to results or experimenting with different strategies. And the UN and other multilaterals should set global standards against which national efforts can be measured. One option is to establish a global learning goal as part of the post-2015 development agenda.
In this paper, Amanda Beatty and Lant Pritchett document the current (slow) rate of improving on learning assessments and explore some of the possibilities for setting more ambitious goals.
Desmond Bermingham recaps the consensus from a CGD discussion about what to do about a hidden crisis in global education. He offers his top-12 tasks for delivery on global commitment to give all children a good education.
There are more schools worldwide than ever before, but are children really learning? Charles Kenny investigates the broken link between schools and learning and suggests some proven methods for improving outcomes in education.
The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seek to ensure that all children complete primary school by 2015. But school completion rates don't tell us how much--or how little--the kids actually learn. This new working paper co-authored by CGD non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett shows that even in countries that meet the primary school completion goal, most students fall short of minimum competency in reading, writing and arithmetic. The answer, the authors argue, is a Millennium Learning Goal that measures how much students actually know. Learn more