Research Paper

Measuring Global Educational Progress

David E. Bloom
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American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Measuring Global Educational Progress Research Paper Cover: Measuring Global Educational Progress

David E. Bloom

A report of the Project on Universal Basic and Secondary Education

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Education is one of the largest and most important investments made by governments and people. Understanding whether this investment leads to the desired ends is crucial to effective government policy and private decision-making. What is known, statistically, about the current state of education across the world? What are the sources and quality of basic statistical data?

As a part of the project on Universal Basic and Secondary Education, David E. Bloom (Harvard University) considered the global data on education, both what are available and what they demonstrate. Measuring Global Educational Progress reviews past and current efforts to collect and analyze data, pointing to the places where improved data could lead to more informed policy-making.

Bloom also presents some overarching facts and trends in educational progress based on his review of the available data. These include estimates of the number of primary- and secondary-age children that remain out of school, as well as the differences in both quantity and quality of education between developed and developing countries. The data confirm that although progress has undoubtedly been made, tremendous work remains, especially in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Evidence-based policymaking holds great promise, but that promise can only be realized when relevant and accurate data are available. Measuring Global Education Progress is a broad and thorough survey of what is known, can what can and should be known, about the world’s investment in education.


David E. Bloom is Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography and chairman of the Department of Population and International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. His recent work has focused on primary, secondary, and higher education in developing countries and on the links among population health, demographic change, and economic growth. He has been on the faculty of the public policy school at Carnegie Mellon University and the economics departments of Harvard University and Columbia University. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where he co-directs the project on Universal Basic and Secondary Education. He is a faculty research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He received a B.Sc. in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University in 1976, an M.A. in economics from Princeton University in 1978, and a Ph.D. in economics and demography from Princeton University in 1981.