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Educating All Children: A Global Agenda

reviewed by Hani Morgan

coverTitle: Educating All Children: A Global Agenda
Author(s): Joel E. Cohen, David E. Bloom, & Martin B. Malin (Eds.)
Publisher: MIT Press, Cambridge
ISBN: 026253293X, Pages: 616, Year: 2006
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Educating All Children: A Global Agenda focuses on achieving universal primary and secondary education throughout the world. The book’s ten chapters offer ideas on accomplishing this goal in developing countries by covering topics such as the current state of education, the obstacles to expanding access, and the potential consequences of expansion. Although enormous progress in this area was made during the 20th century, the editors remind readers at the start of the book that tremendous work is still needed to achieve universal access to education. Millions of children are not enrolled in school, and many are illiterate. Further, a large number of children are deprived of a good education because they live in areas that provide a low quality education. Severe inequalities exist among different regions and income groups, and gender inequality is a problem as well.

The book is divided into five sections. Section One includes just one chapter that covers measuring progress in education. Written by David E. Bloom, Chapter One mentions that in comparison to primary education, secondary education has received little funding. Some of the other topics Bloom discusses include spending on education and the problems with collecting statistics. Bloom explains that educational statistics are open to misinterpretation and corruption. Further, data on enrollment, attainment, and completion is often missing. Although collecting data has been problematic, there is hope that this process will improve. Bloom mentions that UNESCO has made efforts to alleviate these problems so that analysts have reliable data.

Section Two includes two chapters, the first of which is on historical legacies. This chapter explores the circumstances that facilitated and impeded the efforts to make education universal in different places and eras. The authors discuss that the development of universal basic education has been uneven and that scholars have resisted researching this topic through a historical approach. They also point out that when policies that neglect religion, cultural diversity, and local institutions are implemented, problems occur. Unfortunately, this practice has happened often. One of the points the authors make is that international models of education are frequently inadequate because they are disconnected from the local context.

Chapter Three covers the obstacles to improving education in developing nations. Javier Corrales, the author, notes that a major barrier to expanding primary and secondary education involves weak incentives. He explains that ministries of education sometimes react with skepticism to the idea of expanding education for economic growth. One reason for this resistance involves the kind of pressure they experience from bordering nations. Although developed nations frequently become motivated to improve in education when rival countries make academic gains, developing countries rarely feel this type of pressure because threats from their neighboring nations arise mostly from border disputes.


Three chapters on improving education constitute Section Three. Chapter Four focuses on assessment and emphasizes that although assessment is only one component to enhancing an education system, stakeholders sometimes underestimate its power. Assessment provides critical data on teaching and learning as well as other factors involving the improvement of an education system. Unfortunately, differences of opinion exist over which kinds of assessment should be used. High-stakes testing is frequently the most contentious topic. Without serious consequences, assessments usually have little influence on an education system. However, having strong ramifications for poor performance can undermine an education system. In addition to mentioning this controversy, the authors describe different types of assessments and the obstacles to improving assessments.


The next chapter is about evaluating educational interventions. According to the author, developed and developing countries are increasingly implementing randomized experiments to evaluate education reforms. One reason for this rise includes the increased support for this approach from organizations such as the World Bank. Although experimental approaches can produce reliable evidence, this method has pitfalls. Because this approach typically provides one group with an innovation as another does not receive it, it raises ethical questions, especially when the innovation will likely benefit students. Other drawbacks involve time and cost. Although such concerns sometimes arise, randomized experiments have undoubtedly improved global understanding of education.


Chapter Six covers what has been learned from randomized evaluations. Although these evaluations are costly, they provide crucial information. In Kenya and India, for example, randomized evaluations revealed that basic treatments for health problems, such as intestinal worms and anemia, enabled students to dramatically increase the number of years of schooling they completed. Because they are an effective method of enhancing school participation, Michael Kremer, the author, recommends the use of more of these evaluations so that developing nations continue to make progress in education.


The next section deals with costs and includes two chapters. Chapter Seven includes estimates on the costs of the resources required to achieve universal primary education. It provides estimates made by organizations such as the World Bank, UNICEF, and UNESCO. It also discusses some problems with these estimates. Chapter Eight differs from Chapter Seven in that it focuses on the cost of achieving universal secondary education. After mentioning that secondary education has historically not increased as much as primary education, the author discusses its stagnation in recent years. She points out that this lack of growth is likely the result of a decline in aid for secondary schooling.


The last section deals with the consequences of achieving universal education around the world and starts with Chapter Nine. This chapter emphasizes the benefits of educational expansion. These benefits include reduced inequalities, more democratic political systems, and improved economic welfare. When nations improve in education, their citizens usually enjoy better health. And their populations grow more slowly because educated citizens are more likely to have fewer children. However, there is controversy about the extent to which nations benefit from education. Although some studies indicate that impressive gains have been made in certain areas, such as national economic development, other research reveals different outcomes. Like Chapter Nine, Chapter Ten discusses the benefits of increased access to education, but this chapter focuses on the relationship between health and education. The author emphasizes that good health enhances learning and that good education boosts health.


As a professor of education with expertise in international development, I found this book interesting to read. Many chapters enhanced my knowledge of topics I regularly investigate. I can see myself using this book soon for a class I teach on elementary social studies education. Although this course is designed to prepare students to teach in the United States, I know that my students have a strong interest in learning about the education systems of other countries. Therefore, I try to include content and activities that encourage my students to learn more about education in developing countries. Last semester, for example, I connected them to a school in Nepal via teleconferencing software so that they could interact with this school’s teachers. My students enjoyed this activity and learned about the education system in Nepal. Including readings from this book before connecting with this school would allow them to learn even more. Overall, Educating All Children: A Global Agenda is a valuable book that contains important content. It will certainly enhance readers’ understanding of the major issues involved in the improvement of education systems in developing countries.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, 2018, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22473, Date Accessed: 6/20/2019 5:39:18 PM