Educational inequalities in the midst of persistent poverty: Diversity across Africa in educational outcomes
Lloyd,Cynthia B.; Hewett,Paul C.
Journal of International Development 21(8): 1137-1151
Publication date: 2009
This paper explores inequalities in education across sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest continent. Although we primarily focus on primary school completion rates, attention is also given to literacy as a more proximate indicator of human capital acquisition. Using data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and UNICEF's Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), we explore cross-country variations in primary school completion rates, gender and wealth gaps, and literacy rates in relation to each other as well as in relation to cross-country variations in national income per capita. While these data paint a picture of overall educational progress, particularly for girls, this general picture is juxtaposed against an extremely diverse landscape across Africa with respect to primary school completion rates as well as retained literacy. Although cross-country variation in primary school completion rates can be partially explained by variation in national per capita income, the same cannot be said for literacy rates. Even among the poorest countries, there is significant variation in achieved literacy, suggesting that learning can occur even in resource challenged environments. At the same time, our findings are sobering; in many countries, international educational goals are unlikely to be reached by 2015 and learning outcomes are abysmal.