29 August 2010

Primary Education in the East Asian Miracle

From "The East Asian Miracle: Economic Growth and Public Policy" (World Bank Report, 1993):

Creating Human Capital

In nearly all the rapidly growing East Asian economies, the growth and transformation of systems of education and training during the past three decades has been dramatic The quantity of education children received increased at the same time that the quality of schooling, and of training in the home, markedly improved. Today, the cognitive skill levels of secondary school graduates in some East Asian economies are comparable to, or higher than, those of graduates in high-income economies.

Enrollment rates are higher at higher levels of per capita income. But the HPAEs' enrollment rates have tended to be higher than predicted for their level of income. At the primary level, this was most obvious in 1965 when South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore had already achieved Universal Primary Education – well ahead of other developing economies. Even Indonesia with its vast population had a primary enrollment rate above 70%. By 1987, East Asia's superior education systems were evident at the secondary level. Indonesia had a secondary enrollment rate of 46%, well above other economies with roughly the same level of income, and Korea had moved from 35% to 88%, maintaining its large lead in relative performance. In part as a function of their success in increasing enrollment, the East Asian economies have also been faster to close the gap between male and female enrollments.

A common, though imperfect, measure of educational quality is expenditure per pupil. Between 1970 and 1989, real expenditure per pupil at the primary level rose by 355% in Korea. In Mexico and Kenya, expenditure rose by 64% and 38%, respectively, during the same period, and in Pakistan expenditure rose by only 13% between 1970 and 1985. These dramatic differences reflect mostly differential changes during the period in income growth and in the number of children entering schools, both of which favoured the East Asian economies. A somewhat better measure of school quality is the performance of children on tests of cognitive skills, standardised across economies. In the relatively few international comparisons available from such tests, East Asian children tend to perform better than children from other developing regions – and even, recently, better than children from high-income economies.

No comments: