Will Africa benefit economically from its current fertility transition? Between 1990 and 2010, Africa’s birth rate fell from 6.2 to 4.9 births per woman. Such a decline was expected to enhance the region’s schooling and development prospects, by creating a historical opportunity for a ‘demographic dividend.’ In theory, dividends result from a temporary reduction in age-dependency ratios as birth rates fall. In practice however, dividends and the conditions under which they emerge are hard to pin down.
After reciting the familiar evidence on the learning achievement problems in poor countries, Justin Sandefur offers an even more familiar ‘one-stop’ solution – a market-based fix, with low-fee private schools, vouchers, and the apparently talismanic Pearson corporation leading the way to a better, smarter future. It seems that only for-profit school providers and corporate entrepreneurs know the secret of raising education standards of marginalized kids in poor countries, and that public provision is part of the problem rather than part of a potential solution.
Nothing in the research cited by Justin makes the case for his prescriptions. Let’s start by being clear about our differences.