Educational Performance of the Poor: Lessons from Rural Northeast Brazil

Ralph W. Harbison
Eric A. Hanushek
Published Date
New York: Oxford University Press
362 pages
Education policy in developing countries is often expressed as a tradeoff between quality of schools and equity of access by students. The analysis behind this book demonstrates that such a distinction may be artificial. The research, which emerged from an effort to improve educational performance in rural northeast Brazil, shows that improving the quality of schools could lead to gains in efficiency that more than offset the direct costs of the improvements. Through the cost savings they generate, quality improvements can also increase equity of access. This quantitative assessment of educational performance and school promotion in primary schools is unique in its ability to address directly a range of important policy concerns facing developing countries. The study relies on longitudinal data collected over seven years to evaluate the EDURURAL project, an educational intervention by the Brazilian government supported by the World Bank. The extensive data base permits more precise analysis of the underlying determinants of student achievement and promotion than was previously possible. The study includes a standard investigation of teachers and resources. In addition it examines the relationships between both achievement and promotion and student health and promotion and considers the likely effects of differences in teachers' skill and knowledge of subject matter. Separate sections of the book give a nontechnical discussion of policy issues and a full account of the underlying statistical and evaluation methodology. CONTENTS PART I. BACKGROUND 1 Introduction   The Policy Process The Scope of the Work Alternative Paths through the Book A Fundamental Policy Insight 2 Education Production: What We Know   Schooling in the United States Schooling in Developing Countries Implications for Policy and Research 3 The EDURURAL Project and Evaluation Design   The Socioeconomic Context  The EDURURAL Project The Research Project and the Database Education in the EDURURAL Sample Counties The Agenda PART II. RESEARCH FINDINGS 4 Quantity: The Determinants of Continuation in School   Student Flows and the Structure of the Data  School Survival On-Time Promotion Probabilities Migration, Dropping Out, and Promotion: The 1987 Survey 5 Quality.- The Determinants of Achievement   The Measurement of Quality Specification of the Achievement Models Implications of Modeling and Estimation Choices What Makes a Difference?  The Value of Knowledge of the Educational Production Process 6 Costs and Benefits of Alternative Policies   Static Cost-Effectiveness of Investments in Quality Teachers' Salaries: Are Teachers Efficiently Compensated? A Dynamic View: Net Cost-Effectiveness and Partial Benefit-Cost Analysis Conclusions: Investment Strategy for Educational Development 7 The Effect of EDURURAL   EDURURAL and the Availability of Learning Resources EDURURAL's Effect on Student Achievement EDURURAL's Effect on Pupil Flows EDURURAL's Effect on Access PART III. SIGNIFICANCE 8 Education Amidst Poverty: Implications for Policy   The Imperative of Educational Improvement Fundamental Research Findings  Direct Policy Ramifications Project Implementation and Design Lessons for Research on Education Appendixes   Appendix A. Measuring Achievement: the Tests, their Reliability and Overall Results Appendix B. Variable Definitions and Descriptive Statistics Appendix C. Statistical Appendix Notes Bibliography