Schooling Without Learning: Family Background and Educational Performance in Francophone Africa

Julia Behrman , Northwestern University
Rob Gruijters, University of Oxford

Despite increasing interest in learning outcomes in Africa, little is known about the prevalence and determinants of inequalities in learning. We explore the association between family socio-economic status (SES) and primary school learning outcomes in 10 Francophone African countries using data from PASEC, a standardized assessment of mathematics and reading competence. We develop and test a conceptual framework that highlights three mechanisms through which family SES might contribute to learning: educational resources at home, material deprivation, and sorting into schools of different quality. We find that most of the effect of SES on learning outcomes operates through sorting into schools, which results from a combination of the unequal distribution of resources (such as teachers and textbooks) across schools and high socio-economic segregation between schools. We suggest that most countries in the region can improve equity as well as overall performance by redistributing resources across schools.

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 Presented in Session 134. Education Outcomes in Low- and Middle-Income Countries