Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 01/2011

Learning about Schools in Development

Charles Kenny

December 2010

Center for Global Development


There has been considerable progress in school construction worldwide over the past 50 years, a lot of progress in hiring teachers, and global improvement in enrollment rates, recently encouraged by the rollout of payments for attendance around the world. Nonetheless, while education requires schools, to perform an educational function, schools also need students to be in class, motivated and able to learn. And they need teachers who are skilled and resourced enough to teach. And they need those teachers in the classroom with an incentive to instruct. There is considerable evidence that these prerequisites are not met with alarming frequency across the developing world. Given the often weak link between schools and learning, it is unsurprising that the impact of schooling on economic and social outcomes is fragile, even while the link between learning and outcomes appears somewhat stronger. So, if we care about development outcomes, we should measure and promote learning not schooling.