Poor Economics Chapter 4


Chapter 4 of Poor Economics addresses the issues with education policy mainly in India and Pakistan.  The authors Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo discuss the tendency of children in poverty-stricken areas of the world to skip school by choice; when many people are under the impression that schooling is just not available to them.  A large problem with the education system in these places is the lack of belief placed in the children who should be attending school-many teachers are unwilling to invest time or energy in children who come from a lower caste and, sadly, a lot of parents feel similarly.  Policy makers seem to be under the impression that if they can get the students into the school with a decent teacher then everything will take care of itself.  NGO’s like Pratham are trying to improve the educational system. The authors provided statistic results of Pratham’s intelligence testing, for example: 35 percent of children in the 7 to 14 age group could not read a simple paragraph.  They provide a lot of shocking statistics about the intelligence level of children and their attendance level in school.  They point out that private schools don’t do any better at educating low-caste children, as their main goal is to “prepare the best-performing child.”  They end the chapter with suggestions on how to improve the education system such as: focusing on teaching children basic skills, believing in all children to succeed, and possibly making it more acceptable for children to be in multiple grade levels at once depending on their needs.

Dawn.com wrote an article on September 11, 2012 titled “Cram schools boom widens India’s class divide.”  The article discusses “cram schools,” institutions that prepare mostly middle class students for competitive entrance exams into technical and medical colleges, such as Bansal Classes.  Similar to Poor Economics, they speak to students on campus about their daily lives (which consist of studying and only studying) and the cost of the school.  They refer to the main issue that Poor Economics addresses: “Such cram schools compound the inequalities of an education system plagued by absentee teachers and high drop-out rates, which have left a quarter of Indians illiterate and lacking the skills to match the country’s growing economic needs.”  Contrary to what was stated in Poor Economics, many students are their because of parental pressure.  The article shares statistics that are almost, in my opinion, more startling– maybe that’s because I can relate to these people better because we are closer in age.  They mention that 50 kids committed suicide last year because they failed the exams, therefore wasting their family’s money on schooling.  That makes what follows even worse: “In 2012, more than 500,000 students took the IIT entrance exam and less than 10,000 cleared it, making admission statistically harder than getting into America’s Ivy League colleges.”  You have to feel for these kids, as they are facing issues similar to us here- passing exams- but on a level ten times worse than us, with family pressure and severe money issues.  They also discuss the controversy with cram schools- they provide false hope and many of the teachers mock the students.  Both of these pieces of writing discuss the corrupt and dysfunctional system of education in India- with Poor Economics focusing on early childhood education and the dawn.com article focusing on preparation for higher-level education.  I think that both pieces are convincing, but I was more affected by the news article as it was just more relatable- being a college student and with these people going through so much just to be able to do the same.


**I tried to comment but it wouldn’t let me– I think they may have closed it for comments.


One response »

  1. Are the cram schools in india, similar to the education style of other Asain countries. Say for instance China? It would be interesting to do a larger study on the positive and negative effects of these schools on a more international level

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