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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.

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

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

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

  Appendix A. Measuring Achievement: the Tests, their Reliability and Overall Results
Appendix B. Variable Definitions and Descriptive Statistics
Appendix C. Statistical Appendix