Educating Children in Poor Countries

Front Matter

Front Matter

Eva Jenkner, and Arye Hillman
Published Date:
June 2005
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    The IMF launched the Economic Issues series in 1996 to make the IMF staff’s research findings accessible to the public. Economic Issues are short, nontechnical monographs on topical issues written for the nonspecialist reader. They are published in six languages—English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish. Economic Issue No. 33, like the others in the series, reflects the opinions of its authors, which are not necessarily those of the IMF.

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    ISBN 9781589062436

    ISSN 1020-5098

    Published March 2004

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    Children are entitled to a free, quality basic education. Recognizing this entitlement, world leaders made the achievement of universal primary education by the year 2015 one of the Millennium Development Goals. In 2004, this goal appears to be out of reach for many poor countries. School attendance, especially for girls, is far from universal, and many children drop out of school before completing their primary education. Many children who do attend school receive an inadequate education because of poorly trained, underpaid teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and a lack of basic teaching tools such as textbooks, blackboards, and pens and paper.

    The problem in many developing countries is that governments lack either the financial resources or the political will to meet their citizens’ educational needs. In response, poor parents in some low-income countries have organized and paid for their children’s education themselves. It is true that school fees and other user payments are a heavy burden for some parents to bear. But, given the alternative—children receiving no education at all—such payments can represent a temporary, if less than ideal, solution to the problem.

    Economic Issue No. 33 examines this critical issue. Michael Treadway prepared the text based on “User Payments for Basic Education in Low-Income Countries” (IMF Working Paper 02/182, November 2002), by Arye L. Hillman and Eva Jenkner, which is available free of charge at The working paper provides statistics on schooling trends, the theory underlying the equity-efficiency problem, case studies, and a full bibliography. Public Finance and Public Policy: Responsibilities and Limitations of Government (Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, September 2003), a textbook by Professor Hillman, provides a broader examination of education and other public policy choices.

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