More schools are not just enough

Among many other reasons of chronic poverty in less and least developed countries, which issue would you point out first? I choose education. There are plenty of labour supply that doesn’t require education out there, but less human resources with higher education that can create even more jobs by stimulating growth.

The importance of education has also been emphasised in UN’s Millennium Development Goals. In fact, primary school enrolment rate in Sub-Saharan Africa in 1990(53%) grew up to 77% in 2011. As a part of the process, more schools are being built by international organisations and the nearest schools are getting closer, which solves travelling time issue since households are living widely spread in African rural areas in general. Nevertheless, we might raise a question about the quality of education at this point. Education has a lot of dimensions to be looked at other than just the enrolment rate. For example, Banerjee and Duflo pointed out both supply and demand issues why the quality of education is not following the increasing rate of primary school enrolment. Schools should be able to provide enough learning materials and right vocational training. Households should acknowledge the important of investing in education and demand better quality. In order to get the best out of the current education environment, both teachers and students have to be motivated or at least to be in class. Yet it seems like it is rather common in some countries that both of them are absent.

We might have heard of something like Ghost Doctors. According to Banergee, Deaton, and Duflo’s public health facility survey, 36 to 45% of medical staff are absent during working hours, not to mention the qualification of doctors. And it is not only the problem in health sector. Teachers are absent from classes, too. It was the primary reason I decided to write about the quality of education. Conventionally, children can learn when there is someone who gives them information. But they are missing. These workers can be found drinking tea or talking to colleagues during class. How can it be solved? Giving them incentives won’t simply do since, according to Kingdon and Muzammil, there is no evidence that absent teachers attend classes more often when they get paid more. Teachers working in this kind of environment, especially in poorer regions, don’t get fired only because of the absence and further, they are typically unionised and influence on higher power using politics.

Building more schools and hiring more teachers would not efficiently achieve the goal of education with quality under this condition. We need to look for ways to promote the quality instead of quantity by, for instance, providing right knowledge for getting a job and knowledge that is worth spending time out of farm or casual work to make money.

#Education in developing countries, absent teachers, education quality in Africa, Millennium Development Goals, MDG

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An anthropology novice with passion for small things. A development worker in a world of imponderabilia.

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