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CGD’s work in education focuses on the role education can play in building more equal and prosperous societies.
CGD’s education program focuses on broad welfare goals and seeks to understand the role education can play in addressing inequity. Despite the tremendous progress that has been made in getting girls and boys into school, education has not yet fulfilled its promise of being the great societal equalizer. Gender inequality remains acute and deeply rooted in the economic, political and social spheres in developing countries. Intergenerational mobility is declining, not increasing. Poor children get educated in bad schools where they do not acquire basic numeracy and literacy skills while rich children attend good schools.
Our research examines the mechanisms through which education can give children equal life opportunities and build the human capital that nations need to prosper.
Harmful cultural practices and norms—even the seemingly non-violent ones that consign girls to bear the brunt of household labor—have consequences for nutrition, health, educational achievement, sexual abuse, and child marriage. Accordingly, it is critical to develop a research agenda that places girls aged 0 to 10 at the center of policy to address harmful practices. Both as an issue of gender-based violence and as an impediment to girls reaching their potential, we need greater commitments to country-level data, informed and enforced legislative action, and innovative methods to challenging and shifting socially shared definitions of girlhood.
India is a great example of what not to do, suggests Professor Karthik Muralidharan of the University of California, San Diego, a leading researcher on what works – and what does not work – in education in developing countries. Seems strange when you consider Indians head up some of the biggest companies on the planet, including Google, Microsoft and Pepsi. But Muralidharan says these high achievers show up the weaknesses in India’s education system. “The history of education in developing countries has not been about how to educate whole populations but how to channel those who are smart,” he told me in a CGD Podcast, recorded earlier this year.
Girls have achieved remarkable increases in primary schooling over the past decade, yet millions are still not in school. In Inexcusable Absence, CGD visiting fellows Maureen Lewis and Marlaine Lockheed reported the startling new finding that nearly three-quarters of out-of-school girls belong to minority or otherwise marginalized groups. This companion volume further analyzes school enrollment, completion and learning with case studies in seven countries: Bangladesh, China, Guatemala, India, Laos, Pakistan, and Tunisia.