Improving Primary Education in Developing Countries

Improving Primary Education in Developing Countries

Improving Primary Education in Developing Countries

Improving Primary Education in Developing Countries


This work is the first comprehensive review of both the scholarly literature on improving primary education in developing countries and of donors' opinions. It provides an overview of primary education systems and argues that developing countries must do more to serve the needs of all children. The authors promote strategies for improving five aspects of education, including the inclusion of girls and children from poor and rural families--groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in primary schools. Enhanced by detailed tables, illustrations, and appendices, this work will be essential to those who work in education, development studies, and economic and social programs.


A nation's children are its greatest resource. In only a few decades the prosperity and quality of life of all nations will be determined by today's children and their ability to solve the problems that face them, their families, their communities, and their countries. Education unlocks this ability, and investment in children's learning is the most important contribution a nation can make to a better future.

The centrality of children's learning is widely recognized. It is no coincidence that 1990 was International Literacy Year, a year in which world leaders convened in Bangkok to discuss strategies for meeting the basic learning needs of children and a year in which the World Bank recommitted itself to expanding its annual investment in education over the next decade.

The World Bank has long acknowledged the vital relationship between education and economic development and the central importance of primary education for both. Since 1963, when the Bank began lending for education, it has aimed to assist developing countries expand and improve their education systems. The world economic crisis has impeded the development of national systems of primary education that enable children to reach acceptable levels of learning. To realize the potential contribution of education to development, nations must find ways to use resources more effectively and efficiently in their pursuit of learning for all.

This study places learning at the center of programs to improve the education of children. It synthesizes the results of four years of research and consultation on the effectiveness and efficiency of primary education in developing countries, a program conducted by the Education and Employment Division of the Population and Human Resources Department of the World Bank. It draws on comprehensive reviews of the research and evaluation literature, on commissioned studies, and on original research conducted in the division. It has benefited from consultations with policymakers in developing countries . . .

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