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Education Policy in Developing Countries

reviewed by Daphne W. Ntiri - October 23, 2015

coverTitle: Education Policy in Developing Countries
Author(s): Paul Glewwe (Ed.)
Publisher: University of Chicago Press, Chicago
ISBN: 022607871X, Pages: 352, Year: 2013
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The past few decades have witnessed a preponderance of research studies in education policy across developing countries. For the most part, the studies have highlighted important variables that affect national development on two fronts: educational and economic. However, much remains to be done in these domains. For instance, how do we isolate priorities that will ensure the sustainability of institutional structures that promote student achievement? And how do we advance the goals of formal education as integral components of human capital investment?

It was in attempts to answer these key questions that Paul Glewwe edited research studies by a group of scholars to produce the volume Education Policy in Developing Countries. The team's task, quite simply, was to examine the challenges and dilemmas facing education policy in selected developing nations in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. After collecting and collating diverse results and viewpoints, Glewwe shares the findings in this collection of eight chapters, with its unifying theme explored through the use of rich data and analyses. The book serves as a toolbox for policymakers to understand the complex underlying issues that pertain to student performance and nation-building, and is as probing as it is disturbing. Presenting a compelling set of readings, this work is an invaluable resource for faculty and students, educators, economists, and policy makers. Though no book can be exhaustive, this relatively comprehensive volume does indeed carve its own niche, and is a welcome addition to the growing scholarship on education policy in developing countries.

The authors share concrete models that are embellished with visuals. The chapters are well-organized and are conceptually and empirically grounded to help readers understand the themes impinging on students, parents, and school administrations in different countries. The authors describe important connections between teachers and students, students and family characteristics, early childhood development and its economic benefits, and child health and education outcomes. The authors also tackle the impact these links have on workforce, growth, and productivity. Education Policy in Developing Countries identifies general constraints and reviews the successes and failures of past innovations and interventions, demonstrating how the services of teachers, educational administrators, and policymakers (as they interact with parents and families) can be improved. Also demonstrated is how these diverse forces intersect with the dynamics of work in the global economy. Each of the eight chapters offers suggestions and recommendations for future exploration.

The strength of the book lies in its unique multi-dimensional and methodological approach. In each chapter, the contributors present a specific framework with supporting evidence, interpreting both short- and long-term factors in the education-policy enterprise. They provide empirical perspectives that can serve as correctives that will lead to increased student gains, both in terms of the number of enrolled learners and their performance within the institutions that sign them up. An example that stands out is Chapter Six on school management. In this, the authors—using experimental, non-experimental, and quasi-experimental research data—discuss how schools are organized vis-à-vis these institutions' efforts to manage resources. They analyze the relationship between increases in school spending and educational attainment, pointing to societal inequities that deter the full participation of students.   The authors advocate cost-effective reforms and recommend three school management interventions: school decentralization, student tracking, and teacher incentives.

The latter is a theme that is pursued in other chapters in the broader context of free markets and capitalism in emerging democracies. Chapter Seven, for instance, focuses on competition and educational productivity. Drawing evidence from Chile and Pakistan, the authors deliberate school performance in public and private schools, the contention here over which among the two (i.e., the public school versus the private school) is academically superior, and why? The impact of health on the optimization of school participation is examined in Chapter Four. Clearly, this topic holds tremendous promise for greater school enrollment. The concluding chapter focuses on cost-effectiveness methodologies, with an emphasis on ways in which policymakers can use data to make inter-country comparisons. The authors touch upon examples such as Mexico's conditional tax transfers and Kenya's free uniforms program.

While Glewwe’s book is undoubtedly influential, a volume of this stature ought to have provided room for the examination of gender and ethnic constraints. Given past barriers and injustices against women in the developing world, omitting the status of girls in the education landscape cannot be overlooked. Another topic that ought to have received attention is the dependence on cell phone usage, specifically technology's impact on behavior modification among parents and students. Also curiously missing—though perhaps only a minor omission—is a direct definition of what constitutes a "developing country." In the studies, Third World and Second World countries are erroneously treated as if they were synonymous.

Overall, Glewwe’s work is an eye-opener for educators, economists, and policy makers—for anyone interested in the future of education policy in emerging democracies. Education Policy in Developing Countries will equip readers with knowledge from data-driven perspectives and substantive proposals to help map future directions and trends in policy making. Without a doubt, this book will broaden thinking on challenges and setbacks facing school performance and productivity in developing countries.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 23, 2015
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18196, Date Accessed: 5/20/2022 11:04:21 PM

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About the Author
  • Daphne Ntiri
    Wayne State University
    E-mail Author
    DAPHNE W. NITRI, PhD, is Professor in the Department of African American Studies, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. She recently completed a Fulbright scholarship at the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Her major areas of research are adult literacy, adult education, transformative learning, gender and Third World studies. After serving as consultant for three years to UNESCO on adult literacy in field assignments in Senegal and Somalia, Prof. Ntiri launched her long-term adult literacy initiatives at Wayne State University and has single handedly secured state and federal grants amounting to over $5 million. Such funding has enabled the creation of departmental sub-units to outreach the community and enhance institutional capacity building. She is the author of over 40 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in prestigious journals and books and editor of eight books. Her most recent book is, Literacy as gendered discourse: Engaging the voices of women in global society. She is the recipient of several academic and professional honors including the WSU Career Development Chair, Presidentís Award for Excellence in Teaching, Arthur Johnson Individual Community Leadership Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the State of Michigan and many more. Dr. Ntiri received her PhD from Michigan State University upon completion of a research fellowship with the International Labor Office (ILO) in Geneva. She may be reached at dntiri@wayne.edu
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