Big BRICs, Weak Foundations: The Beginning of Public Elementary Education in Brazil, Russia, India, and China
Naval Postgraduate School
Brandeis University- International Business School; Harvard Business School - Business, Government and the International Economy Unit; National Bureau of Economic Research
Peking University - Guang Hua School of Management
July 21, 2011
Harvard Business School BGIE Unit Working Paper No. 11-083
Our paper provides a comparative perspective on the development of public primary education in four of the largest developing economies circa 1910: Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC). These four countries encompassed more than 50 percent of the world’s population in 1910, but remarkably few of their citizens attended any school by the early 20th century. We present new, comparable data on school inputs and outputs for BRIC drawn from contemporary surveys and government documents. Recent studies emphasize the importance of political decentralization, and relatively broad political voice for the early spread of public primary education in developed economies. We identify the former and the lack of the latter to be important in the context of BRIC, but we also outline how other factors such as factor endowments, colonialism, serfdom, and, especially, the characteristics of the political and economic elite help explain the low achievement levels of these four countries and the incredible amount of heterogeneity within each of them.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 58
Keywords: Brazil, Russia, India, China, economic history, education, political economy, elites
JEL Classification: N30, O15, I22, I28
Date posted: February 13, 2011 ; Last revised: December 29, 2014
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