Today is the official launch day for Lant Pritchett’s new book: The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain’t Learning.
You can buy the book here,
You can read about it here.
While governments in the developing world have indeed managed to increase school enrollment rates substantially (as they were advised to do by rich country aid agencies and the MDGs), the payoff has been muted at best because of the often low to non-existant level of actual education available in the schools.
Development advice and aid often focuses inappropriately on the inputs at the expense of the outputs (though the RCT nation is changing this), perhaps nowhere more strongly though than in education.
To me it’s another example of “cargo cult” development (Lant is much more polite, well, ok a little more polite, and calls it “isomorphic mimicry”). Build a straw airplane and balsawood control tower and wait for the cargo to fall from the sky.
Of course in education policy it can be even worse as the balsawood control tower is frequently staffed by un-accountable, un-dismissable, personnel.
Lant doesn’t write in development-speak (the isomorphic mimicry phrase not withstanding). You’ll have no trouble figuring out what’s on his mind.
Both Mrs. Angus and I plan to use this book in our teaching and we highly recommend it to anyone interested in education policy and development.
(This post also appears at Kids Prefer Cheese)
From Uganda’s Daily Monitor:
The Public Accounts Committee yesterday refused to accept explanations from Defence ministry officials over the purchases which are captured in an Auditor General report under consideration in the House. Army officers bought a saucepan for almost Shs2 million and spent close to Shs8 million on a gas cooker in transactions which have astonished a House committee probing suspected corruption in the military.
The exchange rate is around 2500 shillings / $ so that translates to a $800 saucepan and a $3200 gas cooker.
Sound familiar? I guess Ugandan institutions really are converging to American institutions.
Even the excuses sound familiar: “Ms Edith Buturo, the stand-in accounting officer at Defence, attributed the prices to a “war situation”. “
It’s not easy, according to the World Bank’s Thomas Bossuroy.
Here’s the money ‘graf:
Many African economies have grown quickly, and education has expanded dramatically. But growth has been mostly driven by extractive industries rather than labor-intensive sectors like agriculture or manufacturing, and educational systems are performing poorly. As a result, social mobility seems to have remained low, and the weight of the social background still determines most of individual trajectories.
Bossuroy also points out that while education is often an important factor in upward mobility, the overall low quality of education in many Sub-Saharan African countries makes this factor very weak in the region.
The New York Times had an article on Sunday called “For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico.” It had the following interesting points about migration and Mexico:
“The shift with Mexico’s northern neighbor is especially stark. Americans now make up more than three-quarters of Mexico’s roughly one million documented foreigners, up from around two-thirds in 2000, leading to a historic milestone: more Americans have been added to the population of Mexico over the past few years than Mexicans have been added to the population of the United States, according to government data in both nations.
Mexican migration to the United States has reached an equilibrium, with about as many Mexicans moving north from 2005 to 2010 as those returning south. The number of Americans legally living and working in Mexico grew to more than 70,000 in 2012 from 60,000 in 2009, a number that does not include many students and retirees, those on tourist visas or the roughly 350,000 American children who have arrived since 2005 with their Mexican parents.”
I didn’t find the second half of the article very convincing, however, since it relies heavily on anecdotal evidence and doesn’t broach the topics of drugs, violence, or the fact that the Mexican economy is tanking in 2013. Trading economics has a nice figure (click for a better view) of Mexican GDP growth in the last 5 years. So far Mexico has seen essentially zero GDP growth in 2013, causing the government and IFIs to drastically reduce forecasts. If economic growth continues to stagnate, I predict a resurgence of migration north.
The NY Times had an excellent article and slideshow yesterday called A Haitian State of Mind. In it, they profile the work of Paolo Woods, a photographer who grew up in Italy with a Dutch mom and Canadian dad. He attributes his unusual upbringing to his fascination with questions of national identity and statehood.
He moved to Haiti to try to understand what it means to live in a “failed state.” In his words: “How does a failed state live? Who takes the place of the state? How is society organized and how does it reorganize on the corpse of a failed state?”
Woods has some interesting things to say about the effect of NGOs on the island:
“I am convinced the NGOs do not do development. If you go through Haiti, it is littered with the projects of NGOs — mills, canals, thousands of different projects that were built and inaugurated with beautiful pictures that ended up in glossy brochures and that no longer exist. They come to Haiti without a knowledge of the place, and when they leave, everything they constructed falls because they did not create a structure to keep it up.”
He also finds evidence of hope, that people want a functioning government that would provide law and order. He points to an illegal housing development where the people had named the streets and left lots open for a future town hall and police department. He notes that “This is a completely illegal settlement, yet they desire the presence of elements that represent the state. The whole idea of anarchy and that they are people who do not want a functioning government is completely contradicted by that.”
Here is one of his photos in the show. It is of Michel Martelly, the current president, in front of a crumbling presidential palace:
I’m late to this story, but I was recently reading about President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia. While many African countries have made great strides in democratization in recent years, Mr. Jammeh is apparently not a fan.
In 2011he claimed that he “will rule for “one billion years”, if God wills.” Apparently God still wills it as he hasn’t stepped down. And what about critics who say that he wins elections through intimidation and fraud. They can “go to hell”!
Other great claims by the big man of Gambia:
1. In 2007, he noted that he could personally cure HIV/AIDS with herbs.
2. He can also cure infertility in women.
3. In 2008, he threatened that any homosexuals in the country would be beheaded. He later backed off that threat, but in 2013 stated: “Homosexuals are not welcome in the Gambia. If we catch you, you will regret why you are born. I have buffalos from South Africa and Brazil and they never date each other. We are ready to eat grass but we will not compromise on this. Allowing homosexuality means allowing satanic rights.” Note: what is up with the buffalo and grass references?
The 2011 article about the president that I referenced above ends with this awesome statement: “The tiny West African state is a popular tourist destination.” Really? As compared to what? Somalia?