Transforming Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Power of Public Investment


CoE-EDP, VisionRICoE-EDP, VisionRI | Updated: 18-06-2024 11:49 IST | Created: 18-06-2024 11:49 IST
Transforming Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Power of Public Investment
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The study by Abubakar Musah, Godfred Aawaar, and Godwin Musah examines how public spending on education affects the quality of education in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Using annual data from the World Bank from 1970 to 2021, the study employs the autoregressive distributed lag (ARDL) model to analyze both short- and long-term effects of public education financing on educational outcomes, specifically the pupil-teacher ratio at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels.

Education: A Key to Societal Welfare

Education is crucial for societal welfare, poverty reduction, reducing inequality, and economic growth. Despite these benefits, SSA struggles with poor educational outcomes due to low public funding. Education is increasingly recognized as a public good, essential for equitable development. This viewpoint is supported by global initiatives like the 2015 Incheon Declaration and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which emphasize inclusive, equitable, and quality education for all.

Bridging the Gap: Public Financing and Educational Quality

The study aims to provide clear evidence on how public education financing affects educational quality in SSA, addressing a gap in the literature. It uses the pupil-teacher ratio as the primary measure of educational quality. Public education financing is measured by the government's education spending as a percentage of GDP. Other variables considered include the under-five mortality rate (a proxy for child nutrition), per capita income, and remittances. The ARDL model is suitable for this analysis as it can handle variables that are integrated at different orders. Descriptive statistics reveal high pupil-teacher ratios at the primary level, reflecting compulsory and free primary education in many SSA countries. The average public spending on education is 3.995% of GDP, insufficient given the region's educational challenges. Stationarity tests confirm that most variables are stationary after first differencing, making them appropriate for ARDL analysis. The model's lag order selection criteria suggest using two lags for the analyses.

Short and Long-Term Effects of Education Spending

The study's results show that public education financing significantly impacts the pupil-teacher ratio in the short run at all educational levels. In the long run, however, this impact is significant only at the secondary and tertiary levels. This indicates that increased public education spending can improve education quality in SSA. The Bound's test results reveal no long-term relationship between the variables and primary education quality, suggesting that public education financing has no significant long-term effect on primary education quality. However, significant long-term relationships are found for secondary and tertiary education quality. The short-run ARDL model results for primary education indicate that increased public education financing reduces the pupil-teacher ratio, thereby improving education quality. For secondary education, increased public education financing also reduces the pupil-teacher ratio in both the short and long run, indicating improved education quality. At the tertiary level, public education financing has a negative and significant effect on the pupil-teacher ratio in the long run, suggesting improved educational quality.

Recommendations for Enhancing Educational Quality

The study concludes that increased public education financing effectively improves educational quality in SSA, especially at the secondary and tertiary levels. It recommends that SSA governments increase education budgets to recruit and train more teachers, reduce class sizes, and provide adequate educational facilities to enhance learning outcomes. Improved public education financing is essential for better educational outcomes, which in turn support broader social and economic development goals. In summary, the study provides clear evidence that public education financing plays a crucial role in improving educational quality in sub-Saharan Africa. It highlights the need for increased and well-targeted educational investments in the region to ensure that more children and young people receive a quality education, thereby contributing to the overall development of the region. The findings support the human capital theory, which posits that investments in education lead to better economic and social outcomes. Therefore, prioritizing education in public spending is vital for the future of sub-Saharan Africa.

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