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Realising education for all: defining and using the political will to invest in primary education

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The goal of Education for All (EFA) is in jeopardy, and the cause is widely perceived to be a lack of political will. But we lack an accurate definition of political will. In this article, I offer a definition that determines beforehand whether a government will have political will. In contrast to current academic work and popular discourse, which looks for political will in democratic institutions or the commitment of leaders, I argue that a government has the political will to invest in primary education if doing so helps it to stay in power. The article demonstrates that providing primary education helps a government stay in power in two specific circumstances. The first is when the government needs the support of the poor, which only occurs when the poor have help organising from a 'political entrepreneur'. The second is when employers need large numbers of skilled workers. In these two circumstances, the government will have the political will to invest in primary education. This formula is successful in predicting government commitments to primary education over a half-century or more in three very different developing countries: Taiwan, Ghana, and Brazil. In each, the article presents evidence that periods of commitment to primary education are the result either of successful political entrepreneurship of the poor or of employer conditions. The results suggest a new direction for EFA that is more challenging but potentially more successful: directing resources toward those countries whose governments currently have political will, and encouraging it in those that do not.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/27067/

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