Ben Taylor, Sarah Barlow & Roger Cunningham

Originally published in Enterprise Development and Microfinance Vol. 27 No. 1, March 2016

Education is one of the most significant and persistent development challenges globally. Despite 65 years of investment of aid money into education in developing countries, the number of children emerging with key skills remains critically low. While enrolment has increased, there is evidence that this is the result of target chasing and has had limited impact on educational outcomes. The limited impact of aid on education should not be surprising. At best, aid to education has provided only a small supplement to an already broken system. This paper proposes a framework for the analysis of the motivations of aid programmes, and then employs this framework to examine different approaches to education and the parameters according to which they have succeeded or failed. Using the framework to explain why prevailing approaches have resulted in the outcomes realized, the paper then examines the possibility for an alternative approach to be taken to intervention in education, one which attempts to change the way the education system operates to create a sustainable, large-scale impact. This potential is explored through an innovative programme being implemented in Lagos, Nigeria, which attempts to adopt such an approach.

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