The long-run decline of education quality in the developing world

Autor(es): Le Nestour, Alexis; Moscoviz, Laura; Sandefur, Justin

Publisher(s): Center for Global Development

Date: 2022

Pages: 67 p.

Serie: CGD working paper

Series Volume: 608


We use comparable, survey-based literacy tests for repeated cross-sections of men and women born between 1950 and 2000 to study education outcomes across cohorts in 87 countries. We find that education quality, defined as literacy conditional on completing five years of schooling, stagnated or declined across the developing world over half a century, with pronounced drops in both South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Increases in schooling outpaced the decline in education quality, leading to large increases in unconditional literacy. Shifts in student composition can explain only part of the downward trend in education quality we observe: the decline pre-dates the abolition of school fees in most countries, and patterns in adult height suggest students in later decades were healthier and wealthier than those in earlier cohorts.

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