Research Themes


Urbanization and Development

Development Finance

Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources

Inequality, Poverty, Social Protection and Social Policy

Rule of Law, Governance, Institutions and Development

Human Capital Formation, Education and Development

Labor Markets, Employment and International Migration

Human Capital Formation, Education and Development

[Children in an Urdu-medium state school in Karnataka, India.]

For many years, there has been a lot of work on human capital formation issues and in particular on the overall role of education in the development process. It has been argued, that there has been an intensification of international competition in recent years, partly due to the globalization process and partly due to the emergence of modern forms of technology which are primarily ‘knowledge-based’ i.e. intensive in the use of conceptual skills. And these important developments have led more traditional forms of production (especially those associated with Fordist mass production technologies and related forms of work organization) to become inefficient by comparison with newer forms which utilize the skills of the full range of the workforce. It is precisely due to the above central development that education (and vocational training) has become of paramount importance in the current world we live. In this context, investing heavily in education and skills are crucial for development.

Yet, we need to know more about the overall benefits arising from such an investment, the determinants of educational incidence (and vocational training), the role of career aspirations in the overall process, the interaction between the public and private sectors in funding for education and skills shortages and the implications of such an important investment for quality of life, job creation and entrepreneurship. There is also a clear need to re-assess ‘conventional wisdom’ in this area in view of dramatic changes on the education front (including higher education) around the globe in recent years, and the shift of gravity gradually to emerging economies in the global South. Last, but certainly not least, more research is needed on the centrality of primary and secondary education for vocational training and the need to fill important gaps on skills shortages in the developing world (both at the middle and upper-middle level).

Key research questions include: (non-exhaustive list)

  • What are the mechanisms to improve education delivery and performance in the developing world (evaluating what has a high return; teacher absence; evaluating mechanisms that increase productivity of schools by having teachers show up etc.)?
  • What do we need to know on the determinants of education and training incidence?
  • What are the policies through which we can gradually shift emphasis from the quantity of education (which dominated the development discourse and research agenda in this area in previous decades) to quality issues in the developing world?
Related GDN Activities

There is a need to evaluate the role of human capital in economic progress in developing and transition countries. What are the mechanisms to improve delivery of educational and health facilities and performance in the developing world; what are the policies through which we can gradually shift emphasis from the quantity to quality issues in education? These are vital questions that need to be answered to make a nuanced evaluation and target resources towards addressing specific skill shortages in developing countries. Some of these concerns will be addressed by GDN’s program in the near future.