A Millennium Learning Goal: Measuring Real Progress in Education

45 Pages Posted: 2 May 2007

See all articles by Deon Filmer

Deon Filmer

World Bank; World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Amer Hasan

World Bank

Lant Pritchett

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); Center for Global Development

Date Written: August 2006


The Millennium Development Goal for primary schooling completion has focused attention on a measurable output indicator to monitor increases in schooling in poor countries. The authors argue the next step - which moves towards the even more important Millennium Learning Goal - is to monitor outcomes of learning achievement. We demonstrate that even in countries meeting the MDG of primary completion, the majority of youth are not reaching even minimal competency levels, let alone the competencies demanded in a globalized environment. Even though Brazil is on track to the meet the MDG, our estimates are that 78 percent of Brazilian youth lack even minimally adequate competencies in mathematics and 96 percent do not reach what we posit as a reasonable global standard of adequacy. Mexico has reached the MDG - but 50 percent of youth are not minimally competent in math and 91 percent do not reach a global standard. While nearly all countries' education systems are expanding quantitatively nearly all are failing in their fundamental purpose. Policymakers, educators and citizens need to focus on the real target of schooling: adequately equipping their nation's youth for full participation as adults in economic, political and social roles. A goal of school completion alone is an increasingly inadequate guide for action. With a Millennium Learning Goal, progress of the education system will be judged on the outcomes of the system: the assessed mastery of the desired competencies of an entire age cohort - both those in school and out of school. By focusing on the learning achievement of all children in a cohort an MLG eliminates the false dichotomy between access/enrollment and quality of those in school: reaching an MLG depends on both.

Keywords: primary school, poverty, millenium development goals, school completion, school enrollment

JEL Classification: I28, I20, O15

Suggested Citation

Filmer, Deon and Hasan, Amer and Pritchett, Lant, A Millennium Learning Goal: Measuring Real Progress in Education (August 2006). Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 97, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=982968 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.982968

Deon Filmer

World Bank ( email )

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Washington, DC 20433
United States

HOME PAGE: http://go.worldbank.org/MRWPOHRQJ0

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

1818 H. Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Amer Hasan (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Lant Pritchett

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-4562 (Phone)
617-496-2554 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~lpritch/

Center for Global Development

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