Tertiary education in Africa

In response to my diatribe, the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa, Shanta Devarajan, points me to his article on tertiary education in Africa:

This paper identifies the twin problems of higher education financing in Africa—inadequate resources and poor use of existing resources—and traces them to the preponderance of free, public tertiary education in most countries, despite a weak economic rationale for such an approach and unintended consequences of inequitable access and politicization of higher education.

It proposes a reform of higher education finance based on principles of rationalizing government’s role, taking into account the politics of such reforms and the institutional changes needed for a well functioning system of tertiary education in Africa.

Sadly I barely have time to eat my breakfast this week, so I won’t be able to comment. But there is a lively debate in the comments section over at Shanta’s blog. Recommended.

2 thoughts on “Tertiary education in Africa

  1. I have what is probably a weird perspective on this.

    Gifted education is not a matter of letting smart kids go farther. Giftedness is a behavior disorder that is treatable with sufficient interesting stimulus. I don’t see why kids in Africa would be any different.

    So, why is it assumed that smart kids are distributed mainly to rich families? That’s not the case here in the US, even after post -WWII social mobility. So why would it be true in Africa?

    I always feel like the first point of higher ed is to give smart people something valuable to do so that they don’t self-destruct and harm society in the process. Kind of the same point as primary ed for ordinary people, really.

  2. In Nigeria, there is a proliferation of private universities (there is even an American University of Nigeria). Quality may be a problem today, but competition will improve quality.

    This is also mirrored in the primary and secondary education sectors. To put it mildly, even lower-middle class parents understand that public primary and secondary schools are “rubbish”, so a market for high quality private education developed. (At least 50% of primary school students attend private schools).

    What I am most uncomfortable with is the notion that all African problems can be solved by Western donors alone – and this is the underlying theme in many discussions on education in Africa.