Measuring Progress toward Universal Primary Education: An Examination of Indicators

Ray Langsten, American University in Cairo

In this paper I compare the two internationally accepted indicators for assessing progress toward Universal Primary Education (UPE): 1) the Net Enrollment Ratio (NER); and 2) the Primary School Completion Rate (PSCR). I also consider the role played in UPE assessment by the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER)—mainly used in measuring gender parity. These measures can produce dramatically different indications of the amount and nature of progress achieved over time. These differences are largely caused by differing impacts of the proximate determinants of educational attainment—ever-enrollment, retention, and timely progress through education. I show that the NER and related measures, the most commonly used indicators of progress, will, under conditions widely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, produce misleading results. The PSCR, in the context of the proximate determinants of educational attainment framework, provides an integrated, mathematically coherent, perspective on progress toward UPE and useful feedback for policy makers.

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Presented in Poster Session 4