Development assistance for education has doubled since 2002, reaching a high of $10.8 billion in 2007.
Despite these huge funding gains, progress toward development targets has been uneven. The driving focus of education policy making in developing countries has been a push to increase enrollments in primary and secondary schools. Interventions that reduce the out-of-pocket costs of schooling have been particularly successful.
However, although primary and secondary school enrollment rates have improved, in some cases dramatically, learning outcomes of school children remain poor.
Often, countries that spend more on primary education (compared with the level predicted by per capita income) generate on average only a small improvement in test scores (compared with scores predicted by per capita income). In India, even though most children of primary-school age were enrolled in school, 35 percent of them could not read a simple paragraph and 41 percent could not do a simple subtraction.
The disconnect between spending and outcomes partly reflects the failure of human development spending to reach poor people. Public spending on education is generally believed to be an effective means to reach the poor, but empirical evidence fails to support this assumption.