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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.
We model household investments in young children when parents and older siblings share caregiving responsibilities and when investments by older siblings contribute to young children’s human capital accumulation. Having an older sister rather than an older brother improves younger siblings’ vocabulary and fine motor skills by more than 0.1 standard deviations.
Limited resources mean that policymakers must make tough choices about which investments to make to improve education. Although hundreds of education interventions have been rigorously evaluated, making comparisons between the results is challenging. This paper proposes using learning-adjusted years of schooling (LAYS)—which combines access and quality and compares gains to an absolute, cross-country standard—as a new metric for reporting gains from education interventions.
My guest on this week’s Global Prosperity Wonkcast is CGD senior fellow Lant Pritchett, whose new book, The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain’t Learning, was released last month and is now available on Kindle. The book addresses a fundamental problem in education: despite great progress to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goal target for primary school completion, students the world over are leaving school having learned very little. “They need to be in school and learn,” Pritchett says. “If you create systems where the only measures of schooling are kids in seats, you’re going to get measures of time served rather than learning gained.”
Over 755 million adults worldwide are unable to read and write in any language. Yet the widespread introduction of information and communication technology offers new opportunities to provide standardized distance education to underserved illiterate populations in both developed and developing countries.