Sunday, January 25, 2009

Poverty and the education gap

A UNESCO study claims that in India, a 17-22 year old in the richest quintile has had an average of 11.1 years in education, compared with only 4.4 years for those in the poorest quintile. The study concludes that inequality - based on wealth, gender, location, ethnicity and other markers - is the biggest barrier in achieving the goal of universal primary education for all (EFA) by 2015. It also draws attention to the fact that the quality of education received by children is so poor that many of them leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills. The report emphasises the need to link up national EFA plans with wider strategies on nutrition, health and poverty.

It affirms that market solutions (vouchers, PPPs, government support for low-fee private schools etc) that works by expansion of choice and competition can only be a marginal supplement to functioning public schools. It also finds that several popular ideas like hiring contract teachers (instead of regular employees), performance related pay for teachers, and decentralization of authority - financial and functional - to local agencies/institutions, are effective only under certain conditions.

(HT: The Economist)

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