BREAD Working Paper No. 031, June 2003
"When Will They Ever Learn?" Why All Governments Produce Schooling
In (nearly) all countries the government directly produces schooling at all levels from primary to tertiary-and yet economists lack a compelling model of why any government produces any schooling. This paper presents a simple model, with just four elements, that can explain the universal direct production of schooling. First, formal schooling jointly produces skills and beliefs. Second, both citizens and regimes (the individuals or groups that exercise state power) care directly about the beliefs the schools promote. Third, regimes act autonomously subject to some citizen control. Fourth, since the inculcation of beliefs cannot be externally assessed and is not easily monitored direct production is the only feasible way to control instruction in beliefs (Pritchett 2002). In a model with these four features if regimes and citizens disagree about beliefs-about who should legitimately rule, about the desirable economic system, about the justice of the distribution of wealth, about loyalty to nation (versus region, ethnicity, clan, kin), about religion, about political ideology-then regimes will directly produce schooling in order to control instruction in beliefs. This model not only predicts direct production of schooling by (nearly) all governments but it also explains other features of educational policy that are otherwise puzzling (e.g. the lack of mandates, bans on private education), produces reasonable comparative static predictions, proposes new solutions to puzzles in the economics of schooling, and, hopefully, orients the search for solutions to practical problems like expanding access and improving quality of education.
Keywords: Education, Government Policy, Economic Development, Human Resources
JEL classification codes: I2, I28, O15
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