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The Long Walk to School: International education goals in historical perspective

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  • Michael A. Clemens

    (Center for Global Development)

Abstract

Raising school enrollment, like economic development in general, takes a long time. This is partly because, as a mountain of empirical evidence now shows, economic conditions and slowly-changing parental education levels determine children's school enrollment to a greater degree than education policy interventions. A succession of international meetings has nevertheless adopted a litany of utopian international goals for universal school enrollment and gender parity in education based on the idea that a correct education policy backed by sufficient cash could achieve the goals in short order. The latest of these, the Millennium Development Goals, call for universal primary schooling and full gender parity by 2015. This work quantifies how long it has taken countries rich and poor to make the transition towards high enrollments and gender parity. There are three central lessons. First, there is a remarkable uniformity of experience in the rates of enrollment increases, a reality from which which the various rounds of goals appear entirely detached. Second, many countries that have not raised enrollments fast enough to meet the goals have in fact raised enrollments extraordinarily rapidly by historical standards and deserve celebration rather than condemnation. The very few poor countries that have raised enrollment figures at the rates envisioned by the goals have done so in many cases by accepting dramatic declines in schooling quality, failing large numbers of students, or other practices that cast doubt on the sustainability or exportability of their techniques. Third, aid- supported education policies can help within limits, and their performance should be judged in the context of country-specific, historically-grounded goals. But a country's broader development strategy outside the classroom matters much more than education policy.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Development and Comp Systems with number 0403007.

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Length: 74 pages
Date of creation: 23 Mar 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpdc:0403007

Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 74. Adobe Acrobat 5.0 PDF, 430K
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Keywords: schooling; education; millennium; development; goals; history; human; capital; structural; long; gender; africa; targets;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Bourguignon, Francois, 2005. "The Effect of Economic Growth on Social Structures," Handbook of Economic Growth, Elsevier, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 27, pages 1701-1747 Elsevier.
  2. Nancy Birdsall & Nora Lustig & Darryl McLeod, 2011. "Declining Inequality in Latin America: Some Economics, Some Politics," Working Papers, Tulane University, Department of Economics 1120, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  3. Christensen, Zachary & Homer, Dustin & Nielson, Daniel L., 2011. "Dodging Adverse Selection: How Donor Type and Governance Condition Aid’s Effects on School Enrollment," World Development, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 2044-2053.
  4. Charles Kenny, 2009. "There's more to life than money: Exploring the levels|growth paradox in income and health," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(1), pages 24-41.
  5. Michael Clemens & Charles Kenny & Todd Moss, 2004. "The Trouble with the MDGs: Confronting Expectations of Aid and Development Success," Development and Comp Systems, EconWPA 0405011, EconWPA.
  6. Jann Lay, 2010. "MDG Achievements, Determinants, and Resource Needs: What Has Been Learnt?," GIGA Working Paper Series 137, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  7. Casabonne, Ursula & Kenny, Charles, 2012. "The Best Things in Life are (Nearly) Free: Technology, Knowledge, and Global Health," World Development, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 21-35.
  8. AfDB AfDB, 2011. "MDG Report 2011 - Full Report," MDG Report, African Development Bank 334, African Development Bank.
  9. Miguel Urquiola & Valentina Calderón, 2005. "Manzanas y Naranjas: Matricula y Escolaridad en Países de América Latina y el Caribe," IDB Publications 9131, Inter-American Development Bank.
  10. Cynthia B. Lolyd, 2004. "The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in a Comparative Perspective: the Case of Pakistan," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 43(4), pages 441-467.
  11. Sun Go & Peter H. Lindert, 2007. "The Curious Dawn of American Public Schools," NBER Working Papers 13335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  15. Easterly, William, 2009. "How the Millennium Development Goals are Unfair to Africa," World Development, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 26-35, January.

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