Get ready to be schooled! (…about IFPRI’s research on education)

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by Harold Alderman, Daniel O. Gilligan, Aulo Gelli, Naureen Karachiwalla, and Jessica Leight

Students learn many of the basic skills they need to function in society and in their work at school. Currently, in most countries, almost all children attend primary school, but many do not learn what they need to, especially in low-income countries. It is akin to a factory that can produce 100 cookies per day, but only half of them are actually edible.

The more edible cookies the factory produces, the better chances for growth, profitability, and competitiveness it has. Similarly, more students learning useful hard and soft skills at school helps countries grow and achieve structural transformation, as employment shifts to more productive sectors. Improved education stimulates innovation and competition and leads to better jobs and higher incomes, which ultimately contribute to better nutrition and mental health, women’s empowerment, and similar benefits that often persist to the next generation, spurring a positive cycle.

Given recent progress in increasing school enrollment, there is now growing emphasis on achieving learning, rather than simply schooling. The learning process includes the supply side—to learn, students need well-trained and motivated teachers, adequate materials, and environments that foster learning; and the demand side—parents need to know and see the value of learning, both to recognize and demand quality schooling. To celebrate the International Day of Education (January 24), we offer this overview highlighting recent IFPRI research on both sides of the market for education.

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