Why don’t they stay? There are numerous reasons, including the difficulty of getting to school and the cost of schooling. Even when tuition is free, there are often expenses for lunch, uniforms, and examination fees. And because the quality of education is often poor, parents are forced to pay for additional tutoring to enable their children to pass tests. Opportunity costs may be even larger-?while they are In school, children forgo opportunities to produce income working on the family farm or selling in the marketplace.
It is not surprising that when education investments do not result in adequate learning, or even basic literacy and innumeracy, parents do not keep their children in school. Even when learning outcomes are adequate, very few students continue on to secondary school. Job prospects for most people In the developing world are poor, and staying in school past grade 5, or even through grade 10, does not improve them significantly. In impoverished regions, the vast majority will not secure formal employment and will be supported primarily through subsistence level agriculture and trading.
Health outcomes in these regions are also dire. Millions of children die very year from controllable diseases such as diarrhea, respiratory Infections, and malaria. Educational programs typically adopt traditional Western models of education, with an emphasis on math, science, language, and social studies. These programs allocate scarce resources to topics like Greek mythology, prime numbers, or tectonic plate movement-?topics that may provide intellectual stimulation, but have little relevance in the lives of Impoverished children.
Historiographer students In less developed regions face a much different future from their counterparts’ In wealthier areas. There are no higher levels of schooling or professional job opportunities awaiting most of these children; they will likely end up working on family or neighborhood farms or starting their own small enterprises. Schooling provides neither the financial literacy students will need to manage the meager resources under their control, nor the guidance needed to create provides little assistance to promote the physical health needed for economic stability and quality of life.
Life expectancy is low in impoverished regions, and not just because of lack of quality medical care. The devastation preventable disease wreaks on well-being and financial stability in poor regions can be dramatically mitigated through instruction on basic health behaviors, such as hand washing. We fervently believe that what students in impoverished regions need are not more academic skills, but rather life skills that enable them to improve their financial prospects and well-being.
These include financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills; health maintenance and management skills; and administrative capabilities, such as teamwork, problem solving, and project management. Over the last five years, we have done extensive work on the state of education in developing countries. We have visited many government, nongovernmental, and private schools and teacher training programs in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and we have talked extensively with teachers, students, headmasters, school owners, and government officials.
We have visited innovative educational programs that are among the world’s largest and most successful, including BRAG, an MONGO in Bangladesh that owns and operates 32,000 primary schools; Program, which provides iterate and other educational support programs, teaching 33 million children in India; and Scales Uneven, the Colombian program of mono- and multistage teaching that has grown to 20,000 schools.
We have implemented training for illiterate adults in developing countries and have tested that training effectively over the last few years, applying the best of our experience to improving organizations like Opportunity International, a large micromanage institution. These experiences have convinced us that the time is right to redefine quality education in the developing world.