Thursday, September 3, 2009
Avoiding the Obvious
"Development strategies ... tend to focus on quantitative goals, such as achieving certain levels of educational enrolment or attainment. Thus, the two Millenium Development Goals that refer to education--universal primary education and gender parity by 2015--are solely phrased in terms of educational quantity (United Nations 2009). Similarly, while UNESCO's Education for All Initiative mentions quality, its explicit goals mostly focus on school quantity (UNESCO 2008). Amidst educational progress, development strategies built on schooling have diasppointed because expansion of school attainment has not guaranteed improved economic conditions (Easterly 2001). ... Still, economic growth in Latin America over the four decades since 1960 lagged so much behind growth in East Asia and MENA that Latin American income per capita, which was considerably above that of the other three regions in 1960, has been overtaken by East Asia and MENA, leaving one Sub-Shaharan Africa behind. The poor growth performance of Latin America despite its relatively high initial schooling level remains a puzzle by conventional thinking. ... Quite to the contrary, the level of cognitive skills is a crucial component of the long-run growth picture. What has been missing is a focus on the quality, rather than the quantity, of education--ensuring that students actually learn. ... As the figure makes patently clear, considering this low level of cognitive skills is sufficient to reconcile the poor growth performance of Latin America with outcomes in the rest of the world over the past four decades. ... School attainment does not even have a significant relationship with economic growth after one accounts for cognitive skills. ... In sum, schooling appears relevant for economic growth only insofar as it actually raises the knowledge that students gain as depicted in tests of cognitive skills", my emphasis, Eric Hanushek and Luger Woessmann (H&W), 15 August 2009, link: http://voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/3869.
Cognitive skills? Are H&W using a "proxy" for the dreaded "I word"? "Conventional thinking" cannot explain this. We need a worldwide "No Child Left Behind" law.