Inputs and outputs, but no outcomes

Madeleine Bunting over at the Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog writes about the problems of primary education in India. (And novel ways for monitoring educational standards …) My immediate reaction:

  • Here is another excellent example of how turning on the inputs pipe at best only leads to more intermediate outputs (more school buildings, higher enrolment rates).
  • If half the time these poor kids aren’t learning anything in school, wouldn’t they be better off helping their parents back on the farm? I’m not arguing in favour of child labour, but twiddling your thumbs in a classroom helps nobody.
  • Both of which = a classic planning failure.

In my decidedly less-than-global experience, most poor people recognise the tremendous value of education. In a more ‘market-based’ system, though, people wouldn’t send their kids off to a school where they don’t learn anything, or keep them there for the half-the-time there is no teacher.

Let’s hope some donors are paying attention to the results of these novel monitoring systems, and realise there is a lot more to education than just upping the enrolment rate. Bragging about how many new schools you’ve built counts for little until children start graduating with economically useful skill sets. New schools built, more textbooks provided, additional teachers trained, increased enrolment: these are all useful milestones, but, ultimately, only the final outcome counts.

3 responses to this post.

  1. […] skills that they can use to increase their income. This is summed up eloquently by the article “Inputs and Outputs, But No Outcomes” by MJ from Bottom Up […]


  2. […] worth something, or at least when we are able to fix the problems so that it is worth something. As stated many times before donor funds are sometimes quite good at delivering concrete outputs (more classrooms) but much less […]


  3. […] It’s a good cause, but I think the authors haven’t been reading my and others’ warnings about differentiating outputs and outcomes. Either that or they were desperate to find stuff to put in amidst all the stalling in official […]


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