Thursday, April 28, 2005

Education and development

The Washington Post has a nice story about how free meals offered at schools are encouraging parents to send children to school.
In Dataan, in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, 59 percent of girls drop out of school before finishing fifth grade, according to government statistics. But school records in Dataan show a 23 percent increase in girls' enrollment and attendance since the program began three years ago. Six older girls have also returned to Munni's school because of the program.
I wonder whether this will work. I am agnostic. Yes, more children go to school, but then what happens? Does education miraculously create development out of thin air? Lant Pritchett has shown some evidence that this is not the case.

Schooling is perhaps a necessary, but by no means sufficient, condition for development. Moreover, if there is hope for development, the returns to schooling will be high, and so parents will want their children to go to school. A chicken-and-egg problem here.

A Meal and a Chance to Learn

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