Education in Haiti

by on January 22, 2010 at 7:26 am in Education | Permalink

…education is the single most important determinant of an individual’s potential to escape poverty in Haiti. The non-state sector has been crucial in making this progress despite formidable economic and political constraints. The Haitian state’s role in primary education is uniquely low from a global perspective. Of the world’s poorest countries, Haiti is the only one in which more than 50 percent of children are enrolled in non-state schools. The country has a total of 14,424 private schools and 1,240 public schools. Non-state schools therefore comprise 92 percent of all schools, the vast majority of which do not receive public subsidies. Some 82 percent of all primary and secondary school students attend private, fee-based schools…Public schools are mainly in urban areas.

The source document is here.  People, how do you interpret those figures?  I see a few possible takes:

1. Private sector education works well, because they are high returns to receiving it.  The problem is on the demand side.

2. Private sector education doesn't work well, because it is prevalent and yet most of the country is not well-educated.

3. Haiti is a mess, in part, because education isn't much subsidized by the state.

4. Whatever causes a weak interest in publicly subsidized schooling also makes private education less than effective.

5. Private education doesn't work well at low levels of income, especially when educational expenditures compete against spending on survival.

6. Private education maybe doesn't actually bring such high returns, once you adjust for unobserved heterogeneity.

What do you think?

josh January 22, 2010 at 7:58 am

What a mystery!

Alan Gunn January 22, 2010 at 8:17 am

You (I think) pointed out earlier that one of Haiti’s problems is that education is in French although most Haitians speak Creole. It seems odd to find this situation in a country with lots of private schools. Is the problem that it’s really education in French, rather than education per se that helps Haitians get out of poverty?

nelsonal January 22, 2010 at 8:26 am

Alan’s right, although because of the way the country arose (the elite speak French so everyone want’s their kids to as well), education in Creole has been a non-starter.

Anonymous Frustrated Lawyer January 22, 2010 at 8:47 am

I am not really sure what question you’re trying to answer.

The people have chosen private schools over public schools, possibly because the state doesn’t have money, or there’s no interest in public schools.

What is unclear to me is the premise, “education is the single most important determinant of an individual’s potential to escape poverty in Haiti”.

If we’re talking about escaping from poverty, isn’t the lack of “good paying” jobs the most important factor?

That’s the issue facing many *developed* nations, not enough “good paying” jobs to keep up with their educated populace.

Cynic January 22, 2010 at 9:05 am

Tyler:

The options you present revolve around which models of education ‘work,’ without defining what it is that they are supposed to achieve. There are at least two purposes to universal public education – the education of the populace, and the forging of a unified nation. That second purpose is at least as important as the first. It ensures that the people within a single nation-state share a common language, common points of reference, and perhaps most essentially, that all of its citizens are presented with the opportunity to succeed.

So if you’re evaluating the meaning of Haiti’s preponderance of private schools, you probably have to consider its factious civil society as well as educational outcomes. I cannot say whether the private schools are cause or symptom – but they certainly correlate with a society with enormous disparities of wealth, gaping cultural divides, and bitter political conflicts.

You can support private or charter schools within a framework that offers equality of access, and which ensures some basic commonality of curricula. We have that in this country – there’s always the fallback option of universal public education, and almost all American schools need to prepare their students to meet standardized tests or admissions standards, as well as to comply with state laws regarding curricula. Haiti lacks that. Even if its private schools are teaching students to read, write, and add – and there’s very little evidence that they are – they would be individually successful and yet systemically reprehensible.

Jack of all Trades January 22, 2010 at 9:11 am

@ AFL

I think what Tyler meant was single most *self*-determinant of potential to escape poverty

Otherwise, according to the World Bank report
that he linked to a few days ago, gender is probably the single biggest factor

Ted January 22, 2010 at 9:56 am

Simple.

Education is only useful for certain types of jobs (uneducated people can be trained to do lots of things that don’t require complex math or science knowledge), and even still education doesn’t do diddly if you don’t have freedom of markets.

Alex Tabarrok January 22, 2010 at 10:30 am

Without private education Haiti would hardly have any education at all. See

http://www.hopeforhaiti.com/pdfs/world_bank.pdf

for a good study.

E. Barandiaran January 22, 2010 at 10:57 am

Alex, the study you refer to is the WB study by Jamil Salmi of 1998. I mentioned Salmi’s report in my previous comment as the one that apparently was used by the authors of the WB report quoted by Tyler. The purpose of Salmi’s report was to analyze the fairness of an education system based on private schools.

Please read para. 35 in ps. 12-13 of Salmi’s report for his conclusion that private schools had substituted for public investment without increasing education services. His evidence for this conclusion is a lot of primary data but no statistical analysis.

zz January 22, 2010 at 11:52 am

There is a saying in Nepal (at least as it was related to me), that “if you stand on the roof and spit, it will land on an engineer’s head.” Educated people aren’t of great use without effective government and business institutions; by contrast, even illiterate immigrant workers can be very productive with good institutions. Sri Lanka, for example, has a 95% literacy rate, and has had high rates for quite some time, yet PPP is only around $4000.

Haiti needs education, but I don’t see this as the binding constraint on their development; the combination of cheap labor and location next to the US means that they should be able to make nice gains with non-education intensive industries (such as the garment and apparel industry).

Jon Biggar January 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I think you’re missing some possibilities.

First, your options seem to assume that the public/private mix of education and the total amount of consumed education is currently in a steady-state. Given the political instability in the country, why shouldn’t we assume instability in education as well?

Second, perhaps there are factors that directly work to prevent private education from meeting the demand for education in Haiti. Government corruption and inability to suppress violence both seem to me to be good reasons why the supply of private education is lower than the theoretical demand.

It would also be interesting to see what the mix is of charitable vs for-profit private education institutions in Haiti. My guess is that the great majority are run by in or out of country charities.

michael January 22, 2010 at 6:37 pm

2 is wrong. 5 is getting there. I think it demonstrates what is true elsewhere: people, even the very poor, are willing to pay for private education and will often do so when there is a free public alternative, a la Beautiful Tree.

Steve Sailer January 22, 2010 at 7:28 pm

There’s a fundamental tradeoff in Tyler’s call for more immigration from Haiti:

- Either, we let in Haiti’s educated minority, but that just makes Haiti dumber, which isn’t good for Haiti. And there isn’t even much of an educated class left in Haiti after decades of brain drain by emigation. Wikipedia’s article on Papa Doc says:

” His rule, based on a purged military, a rural milita and the use of personality cult and vodoo, resulted in a brain drain from which the country has not recovered. … Educated professionals fled Haiti in droves for New York City, Miami, French-speaking Montreal, Paris, and several French-speaking African countries, exacerbating an already serious lack of doctors and teachers. Some of the highly skilled professionals joined the ranks of several UN agencies to work in development in newly-independent nations such as Ivory Coast, and Congo. The country has never recovered from this brain drain.”

- Or, we admit uneducated Haitian peasants who can’t earn much money in the U.S. and have a very high birth rate.

Joe January 22, 2010 at 9:39 pm

“Private sector education works well, because they are high returns to receiving it.”(sic) Am I the only one this affects like fingernails on a blackboard?What is the message when you start a discussion on education with an illiterate sentence?There are they are-almost the same I guess.Just sad.

TryAskingPeople January 23, 2010 at 7:23 am

Sorry, can’t say anything here, as it would obviously spoil the fun to have an informed comment.

But I would suggest you need a wider set of hypotheses, preferably informed by more data or even (horrors!) anecdotal evidence from a country where statistic gathering may be of poor quality.

Jill Van den Brule January 23, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Please take a look at our podcast discussion on education in Haiti

Bob Calder January 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm

This discussion and the post that started it off are amazing.

How can people who “try to live the reflective life” be so obtuse?

Ask a Haitian about Haiti. Guessing under these circumstances is positively evil. Leading a sightseeing group of armchair economists around a fantasy that combines an unknown but largely bankrupt economy and opaque school system is bad.

Nobody seems to get that private schools and public schools have different meanings in many countries.

EloiseLayla December 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm

In my opinion, education should be the highest priority to any government. One might believe that the medical education is primordial, because it diminishes the rate of mortality. Which is why, for instance, a particular attention should be allocate for masters degree nursing.

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