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Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP09/2018

Publication date: May 2018

Research and policy-making in education have historically focused on quantitative measures of education when assessing the state of education across countries. Recently, large-scale cross-national tests of cognitive skills have emerged as one way of moving beyond mere quantitative indicators of education (enrolment and attainment), and instead allow researchers to incorporate qualitative elements of education (learning outcomes). Notwithstanding the above, research and development initiatives too often assess these complementary aspects separately, which can lead to biased conclusions. To resolve this issue, the research presented here follows the method developed by Spaull and Taylor (2015) and provides composite measures of educational quantity (grade completion using Demographic Household Survey data) and quality (learning outcomes using PASEC data) for six Francophone African countries. These composite measures are termed ‘access to literacy’ and ‘access to numeracy’ for literacy and numeracy rates respectively. Furthermore, this work also contributes to understanding the extent and nature of inequalities, by looking at gender and socioeconomic status groups separately when considering the composite measure of access and learning. All unadjusted access and learning scores are also provided, as well as a brief overview of any gender and socioeconomic differences that exists in these. Results of this work point to an education crisis within the six African countries included, where both non-enrolment and a lack of learning within schools are contributing to dismal educational outcomes, even at the Grade 2 level but especially at the Grade 5 level. For example, only 17% – 24% of the Grade 5 cohort investigated have access to literacy or numeracy in Togo. Furthermore, inequality within socioeconomic groups is extremely large resulting in near zero estimates of competency levels for the most economically disadvantaged (poorest 40% of females) in some countries. Gender differentials are dwarfed by economic differentials but mean estimates suggest that while educational opportunities are similar for males and females at a Grade 2 level, gender differentials may already be visible at the Grade 5 level.

JEL Classification:
I210; I240; O150

Education; Education access; Education quality; Francophone Africa; Inequality