Academic journal article Economia

School Infrastructure and Educational Outcomes: A Literature Review, with Special Reference to Latin America

Academic journal article Economia

School Infrastructure and Educational Outcomes: A Literature Review, with Special Reference to Latin America

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Economists and other researchers have shown that education increases workers' productivity and thus raises their incomes. Education also has many other benefits, such as improved health status and lower crime.1 Recent research shows that education increases countries' economic growth rates.2 While these studies offer strong support for investments in education, they shed no light on what types of educational investments are most effective.

Governments in developing countries generally accept that education provides many benefits, so they have steadily increased their funding of education. In Latin America, public spending on education as a percent of GDP increased from 3.9 percent in 1995 to 4.4 percent in 2010. Some countries spend even more: Costa Rica, Cuba, and Jamaica all spend more than 6 percent of their GDP on education.3 International development agencies have also called for greater resources to be devoted to education.4

This higher spending on education has been accompanied by, and almost certainly has contributed to, higher school enrollment rates. The increases in enrollment over the past two decades, particularly at the secondary level, have been quite dramatic. As shown in table 1, primary and secondary enrollment rates increased in all regions of the developing world from 1990 to 2012. By 2012, gross primary enrollment rates were at or above 100 percent in all regions, and gross secondary enrollment rates were well above 50 percent in all regions except sub-Saharan Africa. In Latin America and the Caribbean, virtually all countries now have gross primary enrollment rates greater than 100 percent and gross secondary enrollment rates well above 60 percent. Similarly, table 2 shows that primary school completion rates increased in most regions from 1990 to 2012, approaching 100 percent in all regions except South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Primary school completion rates are close to 100 percent for almost all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, with some exceptions such as Guyana (85 percent) and Nicaragua (80 percent).5

The increased funding for education in Latin America and elsewhere has often been used to build and staff new schools, especially in areas that had no schools. Indeed, several studies show that enrollment increases when there is a reduction in the distance to the nearest school. Even after the distance to the nearest school has been reduced, however, there are other ways by which investing in infrastructure could increase enrollment. For example, while access to paved roads has increased in almost all Latin American countries, only 23 percent of roads are paved in the region.6 This raises the possibility that paving unpaved roads in these countries could increase access to schools even if there are no reductions in the distance to the nearest school.

Another way to increase enrollment is to increase spending on existing schools, either by reducing school fees and other direct costs or by improving school quality, including infrastructure improvements. Tables 3 and 4 present data on school infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1997 and 2006.7 The 2006 data are more comprehensive in that they include five additional infrastructure variables and four additional countries. These tables highlight several different characteristics of school infrastructure in Latin America. First, there is a gap between urban and rural schools in both years. For example, no rural schools had computer labs in Brazil in 1997, yet 24 percent of urban schools had them; and while the number increased to 6 percent for rural schools in 2006, it increased much more (to 64 percent) for urban schools. Second, several types of infrastructure increased over time from 1997 to 2006. For example, averaging over all countries, the share of schools with computer labs increased from 23 percent to 37 percent, and the share with a library increased from 20 percent to 53 percent. …

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