WP01/2013

The effects of rapidly expanding primary school access on effective learning: The case of Southern and Eastern Africa since 2000

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP01/2013

Author(s): Stephen Taylor, Nic Spaull

JEL Classification: I21, I25, I28, O15

Keywords: Enrolment, School quality, Human capital, Southern and East Africa, SACMEQ, Education Statistics

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Abstract:

Have recent expansions of access to primary schooling in African countries led to deterioration in the quality of education delivered? This paper helps clarify this question by presenting an appropriate conceptual framework: instead of considering country average test scores and enrolment rates in isolation, we argue that the important outcome of interest is the proportion of children in an age-specific population that reach particular levels of literacy and numeracy. In order to measure this outcome we combine school achievement data with enrolment data for a selection of 14 Southern and Eastern African education systems. Using this preferred measure, we examine the performance of these education systems between 2000 and 2007, many of which considerably increased access to primary schooling in this period. The commonly held perception of an access-quality trade-off in Africa has far less empirical support than was previously believed to be the case.