We identify the impact of the 2003 Kenyan Free Primary Education (FPE) programme on gender imbalances in the number of students graduating from primary school and achievement on the primary school exit examination. Our identiﬁcation strategy exploits temporal and spatial variations in the pre-programme dropout rates between districts in a difference-in-differences strategy. We ﬁnd that the programme boosted primary school completion rates of both boys and girls, but had a larger effect for boys, thereby increasing the gender gap in graduation. Additionally, the programme led to a widening of the achievement gap in government schools. Overall, FPE increased educational access, but did not close gender gaps, suggesting that complementary programmes that speciﬁcally target girls may be necessary to reduce these gaps.
“I think we have gone too far in the pro-poor direction…… we don’t necessarily have trade-offs. Factories are pro-poor.” Chris Blattman, Yale University
I am on record as not being too enthusiastic about “pro-poor growth” as it is currently practiced. Loans to the poor and other approaches that completely bypass those with a higher probability of succeeding at creating big business – the educated and middle class – will at best only keep the poor afloat and at worst divert resources from much needed long-term investment. I am not saying that the educated have a monopoly on entrepreneurship. All I am saying is that what we want is to create sustainable jobs. This requires scale. And scale comes with big business and industry.
Blattman neatly summarizes this point:
The difference between a country with $1,500 and $15,000 of income a head a head is simple: industry. All the microfinance and microenterprise programs in the world are not going to build large firms and import technology and provide most people with what they really want: a stable job, regular wages, and a decent work environment.