Top of the Class | Poor Economics
Chapter 4
Top of the Class

Over the past few decades, children have flocked into the schools, but schools seem to have delivered very little: teachers and students are often absent, and learning levels are very low. 

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More and more children are enrolled in school, but both teacher and child absentee rates remain very high.
Many in the policy community feel that building free schools and hiring teacher is the main solution to improving education.
But schools in developing countries deliver very little: In India, for example, only about half of children enrolled in school can read at the first grade level.
Some expert say that this is because there is no point pushing children into school until there is a real value to education.
In fact, education has monetary and non-monetary benefits: Each year of education increases earnings more or less proportionally--and there are also non financial benefits such as healthier children.
Moreover, making substantial progress in the quality of education is possible. Pratham, an Indian NGO, has helped millions of children to learn to read with volunteers.
But many parents believe that the main goal of education is to get a government or clerical job -- hence that education is only worthwhile if the child complete secondary schools or more.
Teachers and school systems have the same view: hence the school system is elitist, and fails to deliver basic skills to the larger number.
Enormous gains can be made by scaling down expectations, focusing on teaching the basics, and using technology to complement, or if necessary substitute for, teachers.

Education studies

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Top of the Class

Over the past few decades, children have flocked into the schools, but schools seem to have delivered very little: teachers and students are often absent, and learning levels are very low. 

Alternate Title: 
Extended Body: 

Over the past few decades, children have flocked into the schools, but schools seem to have delivered very little: teachers and students are often absent, and learning levels are very low. Why is this happening? Is it a supply issue, where the government needs to provide children with better schools, better textbooks, better teachers and better facilities? Or is it demand, where parents would lobby for quality education if and only if there were real benefits?

There seems to be a problem with both. For example, parents expect both too much and too little from the schools: government jobs for those who graduate from secondary school, and nothing for the rest. Teachers seem focused on teaching a small elite, and undervalue the regular students. These expectations affect behavior and generate real world waste.

But the good news is that these expectations and these real world outcomes can be changed: we know how to teach all children, if we only decide to try. 
 

Spotlight


Rukmini Banerji / J-PAL Africa Launch Conference / Back to Basics: Remedial Education 

Rukmini Banerji, Director of Programs for Pratham, describes how Pratham has partnered with J-PAL to evaluate their remedial education programs.

Over the past few decades, children have flocked into the schools, but schools seem to have delivered very little: teachers and students are often absent, and learning levels are very low. Why is this happening? Is it a supply issue, where the government needs to provide children with better schools, better textbooks, better teachers and better facilities? Or is it demand, where parents would lobby for quality education if and only if there were real benefits?

There seems to be a problem with both. For example, parents expect both too much and too little from the schools: government jobs for those who graduate from secondary school, and nothing for the rest. Teachers seem focused on teaching a small elite, and undervalue the regular students. These expectations affect behavior and generate real world waste.

But the good news is that these expectations and these real world outcomes can be changed: we know how to teach all children, if we only decide to try. 
 

Spotlight


Rukmini Banerji / J-PAL Africa Launch Conference / Back to Basics: Remedial Education 

Rukmini Banerji, Director of Programs for Pratham, describes how Pratham has partnered with J-PAL to evaluate their remedial education programs.