How does a poor country build an education system from scratch?


It’s often been said that investing in education is one of the most effective ways for a country to develop economically, but exactly how does that happen in practice?

In: 117

Usually with the help of developing aid agencies (who would bring in curricula experts, teacher trainers, construction experts, etc and initially pay for that work), and varies depending on the size of the country and demographics profile, but ultimately the country needs to find domestic resources to keep paying for teachers, textbooks, and classrooms maintenance.

With billions of dollars in foreign aid and thousands of trained professional volunteers, ideally. They come in with a curriculum, set up in a schoolhouse, and provide education to students.

In practice, the money is frequently wasted, stolen, or otherwise poorly invested.

Well, for Costa Rica, they took the huge risk of disbanding their military and investing that money in education. Also choosing education that met corporate needs and matching it to big multi nationals. Some of the best services groups that go beyond just the basic “call center” are based there.

besides the foreign aid being big you are focusing on the wrong thing

Does having a building with internet access help? Yes absolutely.


But more importantly the ‘build an education system’ is less about the infrastructure and more the national view of sacrifice today to improve tomorrow. That 10 year old not working in the field is hurting today but his schooling will help long term. Even if he is 1 of 500 students sitting in a field while one teacher speaks into a microphone it is still a massive step up from ‘illiterate peasant’ because next year he is able to read. Sure this adds a little more expense than one teacher to have some books but it allows for even more growth

Lots of countries are doing this, along the lines of u/Discoveryyellow’s comment.

For any of it to work, it takes a government that is committed to education, and knows that the people want it. Then policies (based on evidence from similar countries) and budgets that make possible the changes needed. Then pilot projects to work out how to implement the policies in the context (including how to record data on how many kids are in school and learning).

Pilots are usually followed by initiatives to spread those changes across the country. These initiatives often involve instructions and money being sent to local governments and schools.

There will be some aid projects which fund the pilots, and other aid grants or loans which go into the government budget for the large scale stuff. To qualify for this aid, government also has to allocate more of its own funding to education.

Where corruption or war makes putting money into government accounts a bad idea, separate aid projects will control the money, directly training teachers etc.

If you want more details try Googling the Education For All journeys of Kenya and Tanzania, a while back. Or Sierra Leone, which is currently making good progress expanding education. Sustainable Development Goal 4 is the framework the donors and aid recipient countries are using at the moment to guide resources and collaboration.