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Education

Were Gordon Brown and I right? Were poor children actually left behind by the Millennium Development Goals for education?

Adam Wagstaff's picture

It’s quite fun being picked up by a prime minister. Not literally of course. Unless you happen to be a baby seized from your mother’s arms during an election campaign, in which case it must be rather exciting, and quite possibly the highlight of the day. No, I mean being picked up in print. 

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and current United Nations’ Special Envoy for Global Education, cited a Let’s Talk Development blog post of mine asking whether inequality should be reflected in the new international development goals. Toward the end of the post I presented some rather shocking numbers showing how – in a large number of developing countries – the poorest 40% have made slower progress toward key MDG health targets than the richest 60%. Although I didn’t actually offer any evidence on education, I argued: “If inequalities in education and health outcomes across the income distribution matter, and if we want to see “prosperity” in its broadest sense shared, it looks like we really do need an explicit goal that captures inequality.

Brown University President Christina Paxson on Higher Education in the Developing World

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

In the 1980s it was considered a given that most low-income countries over-invest in tertiary education. But that tired assumption is being upended in today’s world of borderless universities and globe-trotting skilled workers. A higher education undoubtedly generates a positive return for most people, whether in advanced or developing countries. However, policymakers should heed the warning about not jumping too fast by focusing on higher learning when in many countries, getting a solid secondary education is the key to climbing the ladder toward prosperity. Also, the importance of getting the organizational structure of universities right is often undervalued, with the result that far too many academic institutions fail to graduate people who are equipped to compete in the global workforce, or, aiming even higher, who are qualified to change the world for the better.

These were some of the takeaways I gleaned from Brown University President Christina Paxson’s lecture on April 26 at the World Bank.

Reconciling the two “sciences of delivery”

Adam Wagstaff's picture

Last week on Let’s Talk Development, I asked what the term “science of delivery” (SOD) means. I suggested that SOD is about moving from thinking about “what to deliver” to “how to deliver”.  We know, for example, the interventions that cut child mortality (bednets, vaccinations, breastfeeding, etc.) but these interventions reach too few children, and the trick is to get them delivered to more. Much of the Bank’s analytic work, policy dialogue and lending work has focused precisely on how to reform policies and programs to ensure the interventions that are needed to improve development outcomes actually reach people. Much of this work merits the term “science” – it makes use of an explicit “theory of change” in the form of a results framework that reflects the latest social science, and builds on rigorous empirical evidence that compares actual outcomes with an explicit and plausible counterfactual.

So what exactly is the “science of delivery”?

Adam Wagstaff's picture

The World Bank’s president, Jim Kim, has now made two major speeches outlining his vision for the institution – one at the Annual Meetings the other at Georgetown University on April 2 ahead of the upcoming Spring Meetings.

Several themes are emerging. Two are easy to grasp and likely to resonate strongly with Bank staff and stakeholders: “ending poverty” and “boosting shared prosperity”. For years the Bank has seen fighting poverty as its mission. It has made major contributions in the areas of measuring and monitoring poverty – Bank staff have authored many of the world’s most-cited publications with poverty in the title. The Bank’s work at the country level has always had a strong anti-poverty focus. “Ending” poverty – rather than merely “fighting” it – is a natural next step. The idea of “boosting shared prosperity” also resonates. While economic growth is still seen as the principal driver of poverty-reduction, the goal has always been pro-poor growth – a concept that links naturally to the idea of “shared prosperity”.

Human Development and Inequality of Opportunity: a rejoinder to Ferreira

Adam Wagstaff's picture

My colleague and (I hope still) friend, Chico Ferreira recently took the trouble to write a comment on my earlier LTD post on measuring inequality of opportunity in the context of human development. Early on in his comment, Chico also paid me the compliment of a being a “clever guy”, which was nice until I read on and found that while he agreed with some of what I said there was a lot he didn’t like. Now Chico is a really clever guy, and this is an area he knows a lot about. So I realize I’m treading on thin ice when I say I’m not completely convinced about his ripostes. But let me take the risk. Chico’s not just super-clever – he’s also very nice. So if the ice cracks and I fall in, I think there’s a good chance he’ll pull me out.

Some thoughts on human development, equal opportunity, and universal coverage

Adam Wagstaff's picture

I was asked recently to advise on some ongoing work on human development, equal opportunities, and universal coverage. The work was building on previous work undertaken by the World Bank in its Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region that had developed a new index known as the Human Opportunity Index (HOI).

The core idea underlying the HOI isn’t new. The argument is that inequalities are inequitable insofar as they’re the result of circumstances beyond the individual’s control (inequality in opportunity), but not if they reflect factors that are within the individual’s control. The object of the exercise is to separate empirically the two.

Chart: Low-income countries lag behind in realizing progress in female school enrollment

LTD Editors's picture

From the World Development Report 2012.

For poor women and for women in very poor places, sizable gender gaps remain. In education, where gaps have narrowed in most countries, girls’ enrollment in primary and secondary school has improved little in many Sub-Saharan countries and some parts of South Asia. School enrollments for girls in Mali are comparable to those in the United States in 1810, and the situation in Ethiopia and Pakistan is not much better.

Friday Roundup: Education, Inequality and Other Links

LTD Editors's picture

While education is one of the cornerstones of development and is enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals, the pay-offs from a Bachelor’s degree or higher do not enjoy the same confidence.  In the wake of the global financial crisis, for some, a college degree is a “lousy investment.” (Read the Daily Beast article to know why). But new data prove otherwise. Adam Looney and Michael Greenstone at the Hamilton Project, through chart illustration, show that “the more income you earn, the more likely you are to have gone to college.” To find out more, read the post “College, still worth it” on the Economix blog here.  While we are still discussing education, here’s another interesting finding from the OECD “Education at a Glance 2012” report. According to the report, a college education not only makes you wise and wealthy, it also makes you healthy. Curious? Read this Economist article to know how.

Women – The Untapped Economic Potential in Serbia

Anna Reva's picture

How does Serbia fare on gender equality in the labor market? Did it manage to sustain some of the achievements of the former socialist regime, such as equal access to education opportunities, equal treatment of men and women in the labor law and high employment rates of men and women?  The analysis of the recent labor force and enterprise surveys shows that although men and women have similar education levels and enjoy equal treatment in the labor legislation, there are major gender disparities in access to economic opportunities:

Using CCTs to Reduce Child Labor and Improve the Quality of Work that Children Perform

Ximena Del Carpio's picture

Does an increase in household wealth decrease child labor in poorer households? Available literature in economics suggests that when poorer households need to make their ends meet, they tend not to dispense on child labor. And as households’ income increases, child labor declines in favor of schooling. However, if schools are few and far, and their infrastructure and teachers’ performance are deficient, there is less incentives for parents to send their children to school. Child labor would then appear as a sensible option, not only for increasing family’s current income but also for training children in skilled work. Thus, an appropriate question is: To what extent and under what conditions an increase in household wealth can either decrease or increase child labor in poor households?

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