MR. SPERLING: Well, thank you very much. Obviously, I need to thank Stephen Hendrickson and Anda Adams and Tanya, in the back, who have been part of the team that's put this together. I also have to call out Rekha Balu, who was my person who really came with me over and first helped me start the Center for Universal Education. And she's taking way too long on that Ph.D. before she comes back. (Laughter.) So, anyways, I'm very, very -- really thrilled to be doing this, for a couple of reasons. One, you know, we have a little history together, which is that, you know, the representative who's not here, but kind of is here in spirit, the Hewlett Foundation, decided in 2001 to kind of come into this space, and I think that of the first three grantees, you're looking at two of them. And so I think we've been, you know, connected, the effort that I have tried to do here and the putting together of this terrific academic research. This was really part of a strategy.
And I know David Bloom from -- and Marty Malin, who also have been partners with Joel, are not here, but from the very beginning I was just honored to meet Joel. I guess most of us, if you knew Joel Cohen's name, you know, knew his population work and "How Many People Can the Earth Support?" And so I didn't think universal education, but then again, so many of us have just felt the gravitational pull to this issue for so many reasons. So we really are connected, and so the idea that we could now help them as part of their ongoing launch is really very, very exciting for me.
When we talked about it, I said the one problem is that if you come to the Center for Universal Education here, you're going to be talking to, as I see here, an expert group. So you can't come and just talk about why girls' education is good, et cetera; we need to make a presentation that is on the cutting edge. And so for me, I was very excited by their focus on secondary education. I always feel that on the advocacy front that I'm always the person who's being accused of kind of pushing and always wanting a bit more and a bit more resources. So to see somebody pushing even a little more than I was, it felt very comfortable for somebody to really be making and trying to lay out the case for going to universal secondary education as well.
Before I complete my introductions of Joel and Melissa, I will take moderator's prerogative to just make a couple of points that I traditionally make when I talk, which is that one, I've always said the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary completion by 2015 was the world's most ambitious and pathetic goal. And it is ambitious because even with the really excellent report the Fast Track Initiative just put out recently on progress, we know 50, 60 countries are still off-track or seriously off-track and that doesn't count, what, 20, 30, 40 that we don't have very good information for. So that's an underestimate. So it is unquestionably one of the world's most ambitious goals.
But it is one of the world's most pathetic goals. I've never met anybody who seriously thought that particularly the definition of five to six years of education was really adequate for people to get the maximum benefits. Those of us who have engaged in putting together the evidence: Meyer Hanni (ph) just has a book out, Barbara Herz and I did something. We know that when we cite all the evidence on girls' education, we know that a lot of the best statistics that we're using all the time are including girls going into secondary school, that are a lot of the statistics that we all use over and over again. So it is in a sense a pathetic goal, and I started saying that after I spoke to class of sixth graders who had prepared enormously for my talk. And they all -- their number one question was, "But why only primary education and why not till 2015?" And I've still been kind of looking for the answer to that and the fact that that was so obvious to fifth or sixth graders in the United States, why would that be our ambition for their peers around the world.
Second point I often make was that right after Dakar, we held some meetings when I was still in the White House, and I participated in a couple of meetings. And it was very interesting that when people started budgeting and looking at primary at five or six years, I remember there being a couple of representatives from different African countries who were very upset. Said the primary in their countries was eight years and that they had assumed that there was no difference between primary and basic education. So it's also interesting to me that some of the people who were involved and worked at this also were unclear on what the definition is.
And then the third point that I often make a bit too, and I'll just make it by one anecdote, which was when I went with the Basic Education Coalition, we went to Egypt and Ethiopia with a couple of members of Congress. And we went to the Minya district in Egypt, which had benefited from support from USAID. And the woman who was the deputy minister of education -- who unfortunately, I think, actually thought I was still in the U.S. government and could do something about her complaints -- said to me, "Thank you so much. The support's been fantastic. And we in this rural part of Egypt have 90 percent of our girls completing primary education. And virtually all of them want to go to secondary, but we can only afford to send 10 percent."
And it was just -- I mean here it was like within, what, we were five, six months after 9/11, everybody was so focused on what you could do in the Mideast Muslim world, and here we were in a situation where in this focus on just primary education we had -- in some sense all of us occasionally forget that even if your goal was just to create universal primary completion, the demand that would create afterward, if not budgeted in, I think, dramatically drives up our cost estimates et cetera of what we really need.
So for me when Joel said, "Well, what part of our book would be best to highlight?" I really felt that their focus, the fact that they had made theirs, from their very name, the UBASE, had that secondary education that they had costed out, had Melissa do a chapter, was really, really exciting.
So let me introduce the two of them and turn it over to them. I think I've already introduced Joel Cohen's academic record would be pretty good for about five people combined. But I hope that as much as it would be hard for him to be more well known for this than his work on population issues, I hope that that is at least competitive with the work he is now doing. I will let -- he will explain the book that they've put together, which really was more than just a book, it was a process of bringing together top academics and putting something out that could be useable, that is -- a blurb by Prime Minister Gordon Brown -- on the back that is really a source both in the academic and the advocacy world, which was very, very much what their intention for doing this book was.
And then I'm very happy that Melissa Blinder (sic), who -- I'm sorry, I worked with Alan Blinder for years, so I have to keep leaving the "L" out of your name -- but is at the University of New Mexico, and what a horrible thing it must be to get on a plane from New Mexico and come here in December, but again that shows her dedication. And she has focused very much on education access and decisions in Mexico and the United States, and I'm sure Luanne (ph) and others would want to talk to her about that afterwards. But what we're really excited about was that she was the author in this book on, quote, "The Cost of Providing Universal Secondary Education in Developing Countries."
And so with that I'm going, I think, turn it over to Joel, who's going to speak, he says, for 10 minutes. He's a professor; we'll assume 18 to 20. And then -- (chuckles) -- we'll turn to Melissa. But I don't think you need to rush. I think everybody here is here to hear both of your work. So with that, we're very, very honored that you came this way and are using this setting.
And this really is -- we have a lot of good groups in this, but this is really one of the strongest I think we've had. So, thank you.
MR. COHEN: Thanks very much, Gene, for convening this session and for your own efforts on behalf of universal education, which have been marvelously effective and, I hope -- I wish you the best carrying on.
Can you hear me in the very back? Okay. Can you see the slides? Good.
I'm going to begin by taking a step back from the issue of secondary education and try to paint a larger picture. I should say that practically everybody in this room knows more about this issue than I do, and one of the motivating principles of our education project was that education needs all the allies it can get and all the scholarly help it can get from outside. So we brought together both educators and people whose backgrounds were completely different. As Gene mentioned, my background was not in education, though I had been a teacher for a good part of my career.
So here's the large picture. There are about 5.3 billion people in the poor countries, of whom World Bank estimates about 53 percent live on less than $2 a day. That is my idea of poverty. Then there's about one-sixth of the world's population, 1.2 billion, of whom nobody lives on $2 a day or less. If you look at the age structures, this is an age pyramid, and the width of the bar is proportional to the number of people. The height of the bar is the age. So the bottom bar is zero to four, the next bar is five to nine, and so on. You see a vast number of young people in the developing world, and in the rich world, on your right, you see a much smaller number.
Now, which area do you think has an easier task of education? Well, obvious. So here are some figures just to see why this is a cause of concern. The average income in the rich world in 2006 at purchasing power parity was around 28,000 and in the poor world about 5,000.
What does the population have to do with the task of education? Well, the increase -- the rate of increase of the total population in the rich world is one-tenth of a percent per year, and it's 15 times higher, 1.5 percent per year, in the poor world. And that poses a considerable challenge to education. There are other differences that I think are important, like the infant mortality rate is 10 times in the poor countries what it is in the rich countries, which means that the children are not well.
So I spent about five years reviewing the world's problems and the panaceas that had been proposed. And they fall into three categories: Bigger pie, fewer forks, and better manners. The bigger pie people said, "Well, just increase the technological productivity." The fewer forks people say, "Let's slow population growth and reduce unnecessary consumption, however that is to be defined." And the better manners people say, "Let's reduce violence, corruption, inequities between men and women, boys and girls, rich and poor, old and young; and barriers to efficiency like distorting subsidies."
And after thinking about that for several years it occurred to me that maybe educating all children well for 10 to 12 years could support all three approaches. And we don't have to do either/or, we can get all three for one price. And that was the kernel behind the project on Universal Basic and Secondary Education -- the acronym is UBASE -- started, I would say, through the visionary leadership of Leslie Berlowitz, an English major who is now the executive director at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. And I co-chaired this with the economist Leslie (sic\David) Bloom.
We started in 1998. Our first book came out in January of 2007, and you see it here. And I think there's a copy out back if you want to get one later. And our second book on the goals of education, "Why Do We Want to Educate People in High School and Primary School?" has just been accepted and will be coming out in the near future, I hope.
The aims of the UBASE project were what would the world be like if all children had 10 to 12 years of high-quality education, and what would it take to achieve such a world by 2050 or sooner? If you ask the question -- this is a blank and it's not supposed to be a blank -- there we go, okay. Thank you.
So why is education important? The conventional answers are social, political and economic, both at the level of the society and the individual. And you can read those as well as I, and I'm not going to read them. But these conventional answers neglect the impact of education on population, the fertility of people, their health and the child survival, and on the environment: the capacity to cope with change. And I think that those factors are as important as the conventional social, political and economic.
I have a checklist in my head: population, economics, environment, culture. When anybody gives me a solution to any social problem, if they haven't touched on those four then they are missing important dimensions. Population, economics, environment, culture. And the solution, the answer to the question "why education is important" has omitted traditionally the last two. Why is universal secondary education important? There are economic reasons. It increases productivity of people. It increases the capacity to adapt to and to generate new technology. It raises people's earnings. But if you're trying to expand primary schools, secondary education is also a source of new teachers for countries with rapidly expanding access to primary schools. It -- the issue was raised by participants here -- it provides an opportunity and incentive for students who complete primary school. Those 90 percent of Egyptian girls, what are they going to do next? That's secondary school. And demographic impact; it has an effect on lowering population growth rates and improving the survival of children, switching the value trade-off in the direction of quality.
The black line, up to 2010, is where we are in numbers of people. We grew from 2.5 billion to 6.6 billion from 1950 to now. If today's fertility rates continue unchanged, we get the top curve and 11.7 billion people by 2050. But fertility rates have not been constant; they have been dropping dramatically since 1965. The world's population growth right now is half of what it was in 1965. And if fertility continues to fall, the U.N. projects 9.1 billion.
But if fertility does not fall as projected and women have -- or men and women -- it takes two, I understand -- have half a child more on average over the next 45 years, we have 1.5 billion more people in 2050; 10.6. And if women and men choose to have half a child less then projected, we get 1.4 billion, nearly 1.5 billion less in 2050.
One child difference per woman means 3 billion people more or fewer people on the Earth in 2050. And if you look at women who complete secondary schooling and compare them with women who complete primary schooling only, you see a difference in every society of at least 1.5 children per woman per lifetime.
Now, different cultures are different, I've discovered in my old age. In Niger, the 4.6 children per women of women who complete secondary schooling is equal to Yemen's 4.6 of women who complete primary schooling. In Niger, the 6.7 of those who complete primary schooling equals the 6.7 of the women who have less than primary in Kenya. Different cultures are different, but in every culture the impact is at least 1.5 children of getting through secondary school.
Not only the mothers benefit, they benefit by benefiting their children. The children of better educated mothers die much less frequently before age 5. Dramatic changes. This graph is from the book, which is, of course, out there.
Where are the children? Well, look at the bottom two curves, please. The pink squares are the rich countries. That's you and me. And the number of children age 5 to 14 is going to drop steadily over the next half-century. The area with the most rapid increase is the least-developed regions, the black triangles. Almost all increases in the numbers of children will be in countries with the least means to fund education. So, how much would universal basic and secondary education cost? You'll get the answer from Melissa in short order. My job is to put up the warning signs. Costing universal education is difficult. And I'm going to give you three reasons. The cost per child who is not in school now probably differs from the cost per child already in school, because the children who aren't in school are more remote, they are poorer, they are minorities, they are disadvantaged, they're harder to reach.
Second. Access to schooling at present levels of quality may not be sufficient to induce parents to send children to school, because the quality of the teachers may not be there, they may not be learning anything, and parents may prefer to have their kids at home around the house doing chores or send them out to work. So we haven't put in the cost of the food incentives that would make it sufficiently attractive.
And third, future education may not happen through schools at all. Technology may change the way schooling is done or may change the cost function, the production function of schooling in dramatic ways. So these are three reasons why you should take your salt shaker along with our estimates.
But cost isn't the only problem. There are other obstacles to the UBASE. And you have your slides, so I'm going to just give you the headlines and you can read the details.
There are economic disincentives. Namely, it might be better to get the kids working. You know, somebody's got to bring in the firewood.
Somebody's got to haul the water from three hours away. Who's doing that? The girls. Competing demands.
At the ministerial level, education competes for scarce national resources with roads, hospitals, defense. Lack of info. The data aren't there. And you can hide a lot of poor quality if nobody's shedding light on your work through data.
Political obstacles. The benefits of schooling accrue to the next administration. Why should I do anything about it? And their political violence gets in the way of schooling.
Cultural barriers. Some people don't think all children should be educated, especially if they speak the wrong language, are the wrong color, live in the wrong place and happen to be the wrong gender.
Finally, historical context. Some multinational institutions have tried to impose a one-size-fit-all strategy, which doesn't necessarily always respond to the local conditions.
So we recommend five changes: More effectiveness in economic efficiency, a commitment to high quality secondary education for all, a recognition of the diversity of educational systems, more attention to why we are bothering with this. What are the goals? We've got assessments coming out of our ears, but assessments should be validated with respect to the goals. And we haven't discussed the goals. And finally, more money and higher priority.
So here's my wrap-up. Universal, high quality primary and secondary education is achievable by 2050. Educating all children well is a worthwhile, achievable, affordable strategy to develop people who can cope with problems foreseen and unforeseen.
Gene, you were right. It took me 14 minutes.
MR. SPERLING: I'm impressed. Thanks very much. Melissa.
MS. BINDER: Okay. Thank you for inviting me here, Gene. It's really a pleasure to talk to a group of people who are so involved in what I'm going to discuss. And the airplane flight, by the way, was direct, which I think in 15 years of living in New Mexico has only happened -- this was the first time it happened. So I was excited to come here just for that.
Actually, before I start I want to just explain that I was given the job to cost, to try to make a cost estimate on secondary education. And I think that what Joel said about why this isn't -- that it has to be put into a context is absolutely correct. And I'll go over why this is -- really I was trying to get in the ballpark with this project.
Okay, so I'll start by talking about the data needs for being able to make an assessment. And the two most important things that we have on education are the gross enrollment rate and the net enrollment rate. And the first one is widely available. It's provided by 90 percent of the countries in the sample, and it's all students, which are I guess relatively easy to count up, divided by the school age population.
And so in primary education in many schools, I'm sure as many of you know, that can be over 100 percent because of repetition. The net enrollment rate is harder to get because countries have to report the school-age students. So not just how many students they have, but how many are the right age. And that in this data were provided only by 23 -- or rather by two-thirds of the countries in the sample. And so, aside from just the conceptual problems of basing cost estimates on what countries are doing now, there are similar problems. So this slide is entitled, "Use With Care."
The net enrollment rate determines how many children need to be enrolled. So the need to impute the net enrollment rate for 37 countries introduces a large degree of uncertainty into the estimates. So even if we can get the current costs right, we're not sure how many children to apply it to. And two of the countries that don't report the net enrollment rate are China and India. And they are 41 percent of the total population of the children in the age range we're looking at. So if you want to leave now, I'll understand. (Laughter.)
And then at least some of the data needed to calculate the costs were imputed for 75 countries. So this really was heroic, I think, on my part. (Laughter.) These countries together account for 31 percent of the total population. Luckily, China and India, which have so many children, the cost estimate data at least were there. So this one -- the cost I actually have a little bit more confidence in.
Okay. Given that some of these net enrollment rates are imputed, the green bars show the net enrollment rates in 2000 and those come from my data. And then the blue are an update from 2005 and those come from the World Bank.
And so, first of all, just to get an idea of what the need is, this shows who's not in school. So in Sub-Saharan Africa it's about 75 percent of the kids who should be in school. In South Asia it's a little over 50 percent. And then the other regions do a little bit better, and you can see that East Asia and the Pacific, they had the most improvement, really a very large improvement, in the five years between the data points.
Okay. So the method that I used was a very standard way of really taking a first cut at this question, which is the unit cost method. You find out how many new students you need to enroll. You determine the current cost per student -- that's the unit cost -- by finding the total expenditure and dividing it by the number of students. And you can do that with the gross enrollment rate because you just need the -- how many students are there. And then you multiply the two.
Okay. Now what you'd really want to do in your unit cost is have both supply and demand side costs. So the supply side is what I'm going to focus on, and what many of these studies focus on at the primary level as well, where you look at the expenditures on schools, teachers, books, labs and so on. And what I'm going to admit, which is really a worse and worse omission as children get older and older, is the demand side.
First of all, in most countries there are fees and tuition -- or maybe not formally, but usually there are fees associated with secondary level. So the direct costs go up, but even more important is the opportunity cost, because as children become 13 years old and 14 year olds, they become able to work and contribute, as Joel said. And so the real increase in cost -- it is more expensive to teach secondary school, but the real increase in cost is on the demand side, I would guess. And I don't really have any data to give you specific numbers, but that means that what I'm going to give you is -- well, this is what it is. It's a supply-side estimate.
Okay. So this is just how I use the available data. The total secondary school spending divided by the number of students. So you can see that they cancel out until we have spending on secondary. And then the total number of students and you divide the two. And there's even some more things that are wrong with that.
Okay. So the caveats are that the unit costs combine capital and recurring costs. In some cases you can get these separated, but for trying to do it for every country I just used what was available. The costs will be overestimated if the country recently built many new schools and the capital costs for a higher proportion, but more likely the costs are going to be underestimated if expansion requires new schools. And you saw from the net enrollment rates that certainly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa that's going to be a big part of the expansion.
The other issue -- well, the second issue is that expenditure data combined lower and upper secondary levels. And typically the upper secondary costs exceed lower secondary costs by 10 percent, and that I was able to say based on a small sub-sample of countries that had reported their -- I was able to derive costs at the two levels. And so the costs will be underestimated if most of the expansion needs to occur at the upper level.
And then the last caveat of many is that the unit cost calculation of public spending included private school students in the denominator but public spending only in the numerator. And that's going to make the number again too small. I had 70 countries that provided the number of students in private and public schools so I was able to at least for half the sample see that that might imply an underestimation of about 7.5 percent. And actually, it's nice to at least know by how much to get a range. But that's something to keep in mind.
Okay. So with all those caveats and problems, here are the numbers, the unit costs for different regions. And one of the things that I think is interesting about this slide is how similar they are for low-income countries across regions. And for primary school, that's not the case at all. And there's been work that other researchers have shown that in Sub-Saharan Africa the costs are rather high.
And here we see that the costs are about $125. So when it says weighted, that's weighted per student. And so the South Asia and East Asia and Pacific, that brings the average down. Lower middle income you see more variation and you see coming out that the Middle East is the country that seems to have the highest per unit costs.
Okay. I ask the question in this work, are the current costs the right costs? And what I did here was I looked at countries that had a higher than expected net enrollment rate relative to their income and a lower than expected. And I said, well, are the ones that are doing better on that metric, is their education finance statistics -- are they different? And there was really no significant difference between unit costs in countries that did better and worse. I also looked at a subset of countries that had participated in the TIMSS, an international test, and I found that they also had about the same unit cost. And so that doesn't mean -- well, all it means is that the current costs are just as good as any other costs that I could think of to use.
Okay. But the next question is, how many children? So if we know how many children there are and we know how many are in school, that will give us how many need to be enrolled. And you can get that by looking at the net enrollment rate, again for the countries that have it.
And then another issue, though, is that many current students are older than school age due to high repetition rates. And so if you can do something to your school system to get students through more efficiently, it would mean that the number of spaces -- you're already providing education services -- there's a space for the children who need to come in. And so the needed number of spaces is a smaller number when you look at the population of school age children minus just the number of students who are there.
Okay. So these are the estimates of the number of children. And I use the 90 percent net enrollment rate because that is the average among rich countries. The United States doesn't make it, so maybe we should add that cost estimate too. The United States is at 88 percent enrollment rate.
I looked at reducing the repetition of 7 percent because when you looked at the high performing and low performing countries relative to income, the high performing countries were very different when it came to repetition rates. They were much lower and I used their average of 7 percent.
So we're looking at 250 (million) to 300 million children. Okay, and if we just multiply the unit cost you can come up with some initial figures. Now, these unit costs are little bit different because most of the children who will be enrolling come from lower income, low cost, countries. And for the second estimate the unit cost goes down a little bit more and that means that the countries that have the most distortion between the gross enrollment rate and the net enrollment rate, the most repetition, they're also the low cost countries.
Okay. I then looked at the average annual cost over a 25-year period for achieving the 90 percent net enrollment rate. If it's achieved in 15 years, but then we keep paying over the next 10 years, it's at 44.6 billion, and that compares with the low-end estimate of achieving 90 percent net enrollment rate after 25 years, of 24.3 billion per year. And when you're looking at estimates for primary education in the range of about 10 billion a year, this is a much, much bigger project.
Okay. I then did one more analysis, which was to look at how much you could expect the developing countries to pay. I used the median GDP share on education among those with the high-performing countries. And so that's the last two slides that just look at some more numbers.
The first column here is -- and when I say present spending, these are actually based on 2000 figures. So that's the amount spent on secondary education, the additional spending needed and then the average country burden, which was as a percent of the present spending. And so those vary quite a lot and they're not weighted. So just among countries, it's about 32 percent for the low-income countries.
I think what this slide really shows us is that to do this in low-income countries is a tremendous burden. To do it in the middle- income countries is much less of a burden. That's the high cost scenario, and here's the low cost scenario. But I would say with a similar -- well, actually the other thing we want to look at is what would we need externally under this scenario? This is $31 billion a year, high cost, and low cost is 17 (billion dollars).
Again, we're looking at, you know, even with this low cost estimate and even with, again, knowing that this is probably an underestimate, I think that the -- we're looking at at least double the kind of resources compared to primary.
And that's all I have.
MR. SPERLING: So, Bob Prouty, any trouble in raising that extra $40 billion a year? (Laughs.) (Off-mike response.) That would change the FTI from "fast"-track initiative to kind of "frightened"- track initiative. (Laughter.) Well, thank you very much.
Now, you know, in looking at your slide I just want to point out your last slide, though, did -- those numbers were slightly less intimidating from the foreign, I guess, aid perspective when you were looking at your last category, which was the low-income countries. So just to make sure I understand, you're saying that their present spending is 15.3 billion (dollars)? Is that what you're saying? MS. BINDER: Yes.
MR. SPERLING: And you're saying that that you need 13.2 billion (dollars) total?
MS. BINDER: Additional.
MR. SPERLING: Additional. But you're figuring that the low- income countries would only be able to pick up 20 percent of that themselves domestically?
MS. BINDER: No, this actually is on average what -- the 13 billion (dollars) spread out over all the countries, what percentage of their current spending it would be.
MR. SPERLING: I see.
MS. BINDER: And then this is how much they'd have to pay. The 10.5 (billion dollars) would still remain.
MR. SPERLING: I see. Okay.
Well, let me open up. I guess I'll start off with one question. I mean one of the things that always seems to be the most challenging at the secondary level is -- there are obviously a variety of people here who have been expert and have helped many countries trying to train people who can teach in primary school settings. When you're at a secondary setting, where you have to dramatically expand the number of people in a poor country who are capable of mastering biology, math, topics at a secondary level, how does that kind of -- how did that factor in, or did you look at that in terms of, you know, whether that's a linear or -- I mean, what kind of cost that would be?
Because, I mean, that always seems to be one of the most daunting things at the expansion of secondary, is the expansion of the secondary teaching force. And I'm sure there are many people in this room will have opinions on that, but I thought I'd just ask if you'd looked at that, or Joel, in terms of your work.
MS. BINDER: Well, I really just moved these numbers around, and so I'll let Joel answer that.
MR. COHEN: It's a good question. My thought was that the early graduates of an expanded secondary school teacher program, especially upper secondary school, could be enlisted as teachers for the lower secondary school with probably some improvement on quality, average quality. But the process plays out again at the end of secondary school. Where are those people going to go? There will be demand for tertiary education.
MR. SPERLING: Right. MR. COHEN: And those people will provide teachers for the secondary schools in the more -- in those areas that really do demand a higher level of expertise not accomplished by a secondary education.
MR. SPERLING: Right.
MR. COHEN: So I see it as a feedback process --
MR. SPERLING: Right.
MR. COHEN: -- where success will actually make it easier to have success because you'll get more -- if you're teaching people well --
MR. SPERLING: Right.
MR. COHEN: -- who'll be able to teach.
MR. SPERLING: So if you can get over the initial hurdle, then you are creating the supply --
MR. COHEN: It's called the first-olive-out-of-the-bottle problem.
MR. SPERLING: Right. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) -- go with you.
Q Economists in the U.S. are familiar with the Laffer Curve- type situations, where tax cuts pay for themselves, presumably. But perhaps some of this education pays for itself if, in fact, the money required from aid agencies is the difference between the average percentage of GDP spent for education and what's needed.
But the extra education ought to improve the growth rate of GDP. Then the amount diminishes -- the net amount required diminishes.
Do you take that feedback of education on GDP and GDP on the country's ability to self-finance in order to compute the external requirements?
MS. BINDER: One of the things about -- there's two things I want to say about that. One is that even though the -- well, my reading of the literature about how closely connected education is to growth is that on the individual level it's very, very robust; that you have a higher income if you go to school relative to if you don't go to school.
But across countries, you don't see actual large expansions of schooling always coming after large expansions in education. So since 1960 you can see there's really an explosion in primary schooling, which we didn't -- I didn't have any slides on primary schooling, but you have tremendous increases in primary schooling everywhere, but growth only some places. So the one thing I want to say is that I don't think you can necessarily assume that. I think that's -- okay.
The other thing I want to say is that as your GDP goes up, the teachers -- you need to pay teachers more. And so another simplifying assumption I made was that, okay, over this 25-year period where I'm calculating the cost, that the additional costs from having higher teachers' salaries, that that would be absorbed by the country.
Q To your first point, if you really don't think that more education improves the GDP, then all the gains in income from the newly educated is redistribution, come at the expense of somebody else and the whole thing falls apart.
MR. COHEN: Let me address that very briefly. David Bloom is preparing a paper on the returns on investment in education. And a lot of the absence of an apparent correlation is due to very poor- quality data. And when you get the data right and you pick appropriate indicators both of educational inputs, not some gross measure, but actual educational inputs and appropriate measures of economic growth, you get a much stronger relationship. So I think that your virtuous cycle that you are sketching is a very plausible case when you have good data, and I hope that we'll have a document to support that. I'd like to point out that the same kind of virtuous cycle works demographically, so that if you do a better job of educating, you have fewer children that you have to -- over whom you have to dilute your resources. So you get a double whammy; more productivity, fewer butts in seats. And --
Q On the data point, we just marked down China's GDP by 40 percent.
MR. COHEN: Yeah, there are problems with data. So getting the numbers right --
MR. SPERLING: Well, I would say when we were doing our book on girls' education, I thought this was the most unsatisfactory of the data set. And there are studies that show exactly what you would say and there's others that don't. I found the ones that were neutral to be to me kind of in the "duh" category, which is, if you only look at that one issue, then of course the Zimbabwes and countries that have war and problems and other things are going to bring the average dramatically down. Other people have pointed out that there's actually no evidence of a country ever making significant income gains or moving up without a dramatic increase in education.
Now, then people argue about well, you know, was it the income went up and the chase that follows or -- you know, I mean so you get the horse. But I kind of do feel that it's not just the kind of trouble with data but just the flaws of looking at one thing undistinguished. I bet if one looked at education, dramatic increases in education in countries that have relatively good governance without major conflict, one would find exactly what you expect. But --
MS. BINDER: But I just want to --
MR. SPERLING: I'm sorry, go ahead.
MS. BINDER: -- add to that, which is I think that there's a difference between -- I think you're right, I think if you -- it's not just education but it's -- education is likely a necessary but not sufficient thing that you need.
MR. SPERLING: (Off mike.)
Q Thank you.
MR. COHEN: We can hear you.
Q Yeah. I'd like to comment on the question you raised about teachers and the availability of teachers, and then I don't know what you want from us. Can we comment on the whole initiative?
MS. BINDER: Yes. MR. SPERLING: I'm sorry, yes. You mean on their whole project or --
MR. SPERLING: Yeah. I mean this is -- I'm not one -- we have never at this forum kind of give admonitions that you can only ask a question. This is an expert group. You're here to comment, as well.
Q Because I don't want to lose the big one for the sake of the small answer.
On availability of teachers, there are two cases, in Brazil and Mexico, you know, Telesecundaria and Telecurso, where they used technology, even the simple one, you know, television and now they're using Internet and so on, where the question -- the issue of teachers was kind of resolved because they did not use the conventional model of setting up secondary schools. You know, in one case they used small schools without specialized teachers, with facilitators, but the transmission of knowledge was not done through the teacher but was done through technology.
In Brazil, it was a big surprise to me, they were not using teachers. They were using actors. And if we assume that there are more actors than teachers available, that would solve the problem of teachers. (Laughter.) Now --
MR. SPERLING: I recently tried out for the part -- place of Joel Cohen in a play and I didn't get it. (Laughter.) I tried.
Q But I'd like to make a very quick comment on this whole question of universal secondary education. And my comments are derived from the experience we had with the Education for All Initiative. And this meeting reminds me of similar meetings we had before 1990, when we were thinking about, you know, expanding Education for All and so on.
First thing, the encouraging thing, I think, is that -- well, a couple of things. One is that, I mean this is very refreshing but it is also scary because it's kind of deja vu. What has happened with EFA -- and I think we need to mention this so we don't fall into these pitfalls. What happened with the EFA is that it was supposed to be education for all. It wasn't basic education. It was not primary education. It was supposed to be meeting basic learning needs and it was supposed to be a movement to empower countries to figure out what the learning needs are for different age groups and provide education that is suitable for the meeting of these basic needs.
Now, unfortunately the EFA got diluted. I call it EFA-lite. It got diluted, and just like because it's the human nature, we try to move from what needs to be done to what we know how to do. And we know things about enrollment, about attendance and so on, so universal education became primary schooling. And what you mentioned about the Millennium Development Goals, it's not only pathetic but it's really disappointing that we took something that is really promising into something that is really very narrow. So I'm very delighted that now maybe we can revive the notion that, well, we need education for everybody.
Now, what we need to think about -- and this is something, you know, I'm putting in as a challenge -- before we think of expanding secondary education and how much it costs and so on, I think the question, the basic question -- although it sounds academic but it's not academic -- is, what's secondary education? You know, for many, many years in the World Bank we struggled with this question, because secondary education is really the weak link between primary education and university. There is a good constituency for primary education, there's a good constituency for higher education; secondary education is kind of like filling between these two. What? So we talked about general education, college preparatory education, vocational education, comprehensive education, diversified education, and you know what? None of these were satisfactory.
So I think it will be very interesting for the project to start, you know, talking about this question, you know. What's secondary education? And what models of delivery of secondary education? If we answer these two questions then maybe we have to go to the drawing board about costs and about ways of reaching this objective.
MR. SPERLING: All right. Let me let some others get in. So the way we normally do it here is you can put up your card or you can put up your hand and then we'll kind of go in order.
But if you have a comment that is directly related to the point or discussion being made, I will let you jump in line.
MR. COHEN: Could I just --
MR. SPERLING: Sure. Go ahead.
MR. COHEN: "What's secondary education?" is the central question of the next book, on "International Perspectives on the Goals of Universal Education." And originally that was supposed to be part of the charter of UNESCO. It was in the charter. They backed away from it like a hot branding iron because of the political conflicts in the Cold War. It was too hot for them to handle and they went for access instead of "What are the goals?"
We are trying to launch again an international conversation on what do we want. And let me tell you, when you get a Nigerian headmaster of a Koranic school and the former minister of education of Tunisia and an education minister from China all in the same room, you get a lot of different answers. And there is no public conversation on that question, what do we want to do in secondary school. And I think that it would be valuable to have a conversation, a decent civil conversation so that we can accommodate a variety of values, views, perspectives.
MR. SPERLING: Okay. I'm going to go Frank and then Kim.
Q Thank you, excellent presentation. A couple of quick comments on the demographics. First, I agree that the demographic data is lousy in too many countries, that it's particularly serious in Africa. The 2006 revision shows these trends moderating even faster than what you have in the 2004 data there.
One thing that's apparent is that a considerable number of mainly middle income countries, although not entirely middle income countries, have stable, if not declining, school-age cohorts, including large countries like Indonesia, most of China, parts of India, most of the island countries, et cetera.
Have you -- and these present quite different problems of how you manage the expansion. Did you attempt in either of your studies to separate the developing countries from those that have moderating or declining school-age cohorts from those that still have growth with which they still need to catch up?
MS. BINDER: Yeah. Actually for the 25-year and 15-year horizons I used estimated populations separately for every country. And so part of the reason -- if you look in the book, in the chapters -- that's not the question you're asking?
Q No. The populations even in the countries with declining school-age cohorts are still increasing because of longevity, but the school-age cohorts are not. So that we need to pull apart the (relation ?) of population growth.
MS. BINDER: Yeah, I used the school-age population.
MR. COHEN: She used school-age populations, not total populations.
Q Over 25 years, and you didn't find the declines?
MS. BINDER: No, I did see there were declines. So the costs -- like I have in the actual chapter, year by year, you can see that that population stabilizes and then falls. So that is added into those costs. I mean, it's calculated in the costs.
MR. COHEN: She used the population of school-age children country by country. Am I correct?
MS. BINDER: Yes, that's right.
MR. COHEN: And may I just take a brief commercial message here. You can get her chapter for free by downloading it from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences website, along with the cost -- review of the cost estimates for primary education. So if you can't spring for the 25 bucks or whatever the book is, you can get it for free from our website. And you can see the details there.
MR. SPERLING: Kim.
Q Several points. Thank you.
Well, first of all, you know, when we hear the total cost, what is a high case scenario or low case scenario, it's always kind of scary. So my suggestion is that, you know -- Waddi (ph) may disagree -- why don't we think about different stages of expansion? There's no reason why a country have to expand suddenly six years of secondary education, but, you know, usually countries think about junior secondary education and senior secondary education. So that makes the costs much more manageable.
And in fact, if you look at the historical education expansion of both China and India, you know, which account for 41 percent of your school-age population, they are doing exactly that, you know, kind of phased approach. India's starts with five years of primary education and then expand to three more years for upper primary, which is actually getting into the secondary level, and they call it elementary education. Now the goal is to expand to -- another two years to 10 years.
China has started with primary education and then -- five years primary and then six years of primary, and now it is nine years of universal compulsory education, of which three years are junior secondary education. So I think that if -- particularly for low- income countries, they think about expansion in those terms, it is a lot more manageable and affordable.
The other couple of points, that I do agree with Waddi (ph) on the delivery mechanism of -- either for teacher training or even for some secondary schooling because you can do that through television and various means. Again, like India in 2004 set up the Edusat which is the satellite deliverer of the T.V. program to train teachers and also can allow the student to access it. And then they have long distance education, very well developed materials that can be accessed.
China have really good use of technology now in many, many schools, perhaps except the most remote single teacher's school. Even that I'm not completely sure. You can actually have different types of technology that got delivered, either -- the lowest form is DVD and that you can actually play and then you get the content that way.
The next -- the other form is television beamed from Beijing, so in the whole country you can actually access same program at the same time. And then there is, of course, the highest is the interactive form, which is Web-based. And these can be found in many schools, even primary school.
On the return to education, I think that if we look at time theories -- I mean we talk about all these data problems, but in fact some countries are pretty good -- I mean, of course, not 100 percent perfect, but pretty good household survey data, for example, that allows one to estimate at least the private return to education.
And the country that I was thinking about is actually India. If you look at 1983, '87, '93, say '98, 2004, at these points in time, and then plotting the private returns to education by different levels and also separate them by male and female, you actually find a very encouraging picture because the return to secondary education increased, but the most recent year the returns to higher education overtake the returns of secondary education. And of course, you can't get to that level until you have -- you know, you get the children into secondary education.
So in that sense I agree with Melissa that, you know, if you look at private return, there's certainly return now. If you look at social return, that is a little bit harder to calculate in part because social return -- well, first of all, requires better data and also, if you bring everybody up to the same level then the return to that particular education may not be as high.
So I tend to think that the real benefit of secondary education, I would agree with Joel, is on the impact on the environment, on the health, on, you know, social cohesion. And I think that we have never really talked enough about those important benefits. And particularly nowadays with the climate change being, you know, such an incredible challenge that -- and what amazed me is that nobody talk about the relationship between population growth and climate change and the relationship between education and the environment.
MR. SPERLING: Let me go to William and then to Bob Prouty.
Q This is partly a question related to a book, or analysis, which I'd like your comments on. This is by Keith Lewin and -- I forget her name, Caillods? -- of IIEP. The impression you get from that analysis is a very dark impression. And it's because they are focusing on a subset of countries, Sub-Saharan Africa. But for many countries their projections -- you know, at current costs and then they can manipulate different types of costs, and they're very clever at that -- is that for the Middle East and Sub-Saharan countries to get this goal would require percentage of GNP for education to be 15 percent, 18 percent, 12 percent and so on.
In other words, it presents a much darker picture for particular subsets of countries than you've projected.
And that is another theme to the -- you know, the sort of naysayers' viewpoint, and that is that in many of these countries, even at the primary level, quality is perceived as being very low, so then that adds on to the costs. And how do you respond to these types of observations?
MS. BINDER: Well, I think, you know that the book that you're talking about was a really detailed look at each country and ultimately that's what you have to do. You can't just say, okay on average this, or what we're doing here is this. I mean really I think that the reason why UBASE wanted an analysis was that because we don't have any one, so we don't even have a starting point. Is that true? I don't know.
MR. COHEN: It's correct. That's correct.
MS. BINDER: So we just needed a place to start. But I think you're absolutely correct that if you looked at each individual country, the costs may be a lot higher. And if you think about the -- actually another chapter in the book about primary cost exercises, which there have been several, and that chapter looks at well, are these accurate? And the conclusion is well, in many countries the schools, especially, say, in Latin America, the schools are there; the kids aren't going.
And so to get the kids to go, as I'm sure you all know, there've been -- there's a relatively new initiative to pay families, you know, directly tied to their children's attendance. And that would be much more expensive.
So I guess my response is that -- well, actually I want to respond to the comment before. Just looking again at where these numbers came from, for the first year its $4 billion. So it is, you know, by looking for a 25-year commitment, what's the average annual costs, that's going to be a lot higher than the first year. So that's just one thing to say.
On the other hand, I think that these costs really get us into the ballpark. And if we know they're too low, then at least we know this is going to be big, you know. If they turned out really low, like, you know, oh, we just need a little bit more, I think that that would be -- I'd like to think that doing the exercise was at least useful to saying is this something we could do or like at a minimum level, what are we looking at? So I have to agree that I think that this is an underestimate.
MR. SPERLING: I'm sorry, Bob, did you want to cut in on that, sir?
Q Okay, I'll go ahead very quickly. I just want to say that one of the things -- one of the approaches or responses one can have at these numbers is that they're astonishingly high numbers compared to what we've been able to generate so far. And certainly the experience in the fast-track has not been, I would say, very encouraging to date. The numbers have been hard to reach, even in primary education, even in fairly modest numbers.
But at another level, certainly at a human scale, the numbers are almost trivial. For the enormity of the task that one sets before us, these numbers are very, very reasonable. And certainly if one had, you know, political leadership with, you know, kind of a "put a man on the moon by the end of the decade" sort of vision, these are absolutely achievable. So that's one comment, even if we haven't to date.
Just a quick question on the costing. Certainly this country-by- country approach is absolutely necessary. One thing that I think is going to have to be factored in going forward is that there are tremendous opportunities for impacting those costs. Look at the costs, for instance, in Sub-Saharan Africa which are higher than one would expect typically. There's, for instance, in Francophone Africa, there's no country in Francophone Africa that averages more than 16 hours of teaching per teacher at the secondary school level per year. And that's almost 50 percent lower than what the countries are doing -- in most developed countries are doing. So there's huge scope for some economies of scale then. Of course, class size and other things factor into this as well.
But the bigger question -- and I'm just wondering how you address this or how you would propose to get out of this in terms of costing -- is that we currently have no model in a traditional sense without getting to some of the things that Waddi (ph) has talked about. We have no model for secondary schooling that would cover vast populations in rural areas, kind of the no-transportation zones. There currently simply is no model of secondary school that would address it. So cost calculations for here are kind of beside the point. And I just wonder if you get at these kinds of issues at all.
MR. SPERLING: Just two things. One which I think is worth recognizing is that I agree, obviously, that it has been -- of the six EFA goals, and even them to some degree, maybe, pulling back -- but it is discouraging that even with this as a single focus goal, the numbers have improved, and they've improved because of efforts in the Fast Track Initiative, but they are still rather depressing. And I think this is one of the constant challenges that you have to go from arguing for more to significant more unless you want to get into the, you know, carving up and saying even less kids should go to primary school.
And then, you know, as Bob said, I've been struck too as to when people are trying to do heroic things in kind of poor rural places in Sudan, for example. The focus is almost completely on boarding schools, which are, you know, quite expensive, and yet the response comes back, "There is no other way." So I mean that is a very good point as to -- unlike in primary where there's kind of at least a multi-grade kind of model.
Okay, Sarah, and then we have May, and then did you still want to come in?
MR. SPERLING: Okay.
Q Thanks very much. This is really exciting work. As a long-time fan of Professor Cohen, it's good to see you again.
I wanted to speak clearly not as a member of the Gates Foundation now, because we exclusively advocate at this point for global health, so education's sort of a competitor, but as someone who cares passionately about education, maybe some of the lessons learned from trying to up the profile of global health would be relevant and useful.
One is that it's probably not worth getting too bound up in the nitty-gritty details of global costing estimates, because they really are estimates and there's so much judgment. I think anyone who has been involved in doing them will say there's so much judgment involved about what you do and don't include for things as broad-ranging as basic health and basic education.
The notion that we emerged with in health was that there just needed to be a lot more money -- (laughter) -- and 10 billion (dollars) to 20 to 30 where the numbers. And you find that they tend to be used almost as advocacy targets. But for what its worth, in health the numbers that, you know -- health uses numbers that are big and bigger than the numbers that you're tossing around here. So it's not an unreasonable aspiration.
The thing that I think we did in -- some cases well, in some cases not so well -- when we were trying to catapult global health to center stage was talking about financing mechanisms and means by which these amounts of money were actually going to be spent. And we frequently would not step in and talk about the efficiency of those resources from the perspective of donor distribution. Right. And it turns out there seems to be quite a huge range in how efficiently those monies buy education in practice on the ground. And there are a number of different -- I mean those of us in the room are very familiar with. You know, the classic aid effectiveness arguments, and it's not worth rehashing all of them. But it's a very different thing to provide direct budget support to a government in a developing country than it is to go through an NGO route than it is to go through, you know, a series of procurements.
And one of the things that I would love to know if you've put much thought into is the varying methods of distribution of these large numbers of, you know, 10 billion global dollars. Going into this, donors want to know and appropriators want to know what your plan is for how that's going to be spent efficiently. And we found that the better we were able to answer that question with more and more reliable data, the more persuasive we were able to be in getting our asks. It's frequently something that in the academic world we don't focus as much on because it's not as obvious an academic question. But as you veer into trying to get your ideas into the policy sphere, it becomes critically important, I would say.
MR. SPERLING: Because we are nearing the bewitching hour, I'm going to take -- first of all you're going to Afghanistan any day, yes?
Q (Off mike.)
MR. SPERLING: Yes. So safe travels, first of all, from us. But we'll let you go. And then I want -- and then let May speak. And then unless somebody has anything absolutely burning, I wanted to give our two authors a chance to then respond to any comments that they haven't responded to and make any closing comments.
Q Thanks. No, I just first of all wanted to talk about definitions, you know, USAID's basic education definition. We're governed by an earmark, so Joel, on your slide where you talked about obstacles to UBASE, donors are also one of those obstacles in terms of what we're governed by. Well, we have an earmark. In 2001 it was Basic Education for Children, which meant we could only really identify programs for primary education.
But that is expanded, so now it includes middle and secondary school education. And so some people just keep forgetting that we actually have the expanded definition for education.
But then, so in a situation like Cambodia -- I was there last month designing our new education program -- we have to deal with playing in the sandbox with an FTI-endorsed country where (growth ?) enrollment rates are over 130 percent and where you see -- for primary education; where you're talking about secondary education, it's less than 30 percent.
So it's almost like you have to figure out how do you work with the other donors while pushing forward and advocating strongly, and the government, for the FTI support in primary school where you have abysmal enrollment rates in secondary education. So it's not that straightforward, because you don't want to be an outlier in the effort. So just one of those things to keep in concentration as we identify next steps.
MR. SPERLING: One thing I just would also mention, just looking to the future, is that piece of legislation, which is now a bipartisan piece of legislation, the Education for All Act, which is still gathering cosponsors but might be the source of a future big initiative, does define -- does not mention primary, it says basic, and actually defines it as nine to 10 years. So just a note of progress, yes.
Q Thank you. Listening to the cost presentation, and I know that we can argue why costs per region could be useful, and I know we raised it a little bit, but I want to emphasize that point that cost per region, even though it could be useful, it masks so many differences within the region that on the other hand it might not be useful. We really have to do it country by country. Just take the Middle East as an example, and you highlighted that it's the highest cost. It is, yes, but it also has the lowest cost for some countries in the Middle East. Take Qatar and Yemen, neighboring, nearly, countries, and the cost difference is tremendous, absolutely tremendous. So that masking of costs within the region might be a little misleading if we don't dissect the countries and break it down to country by country. Another comment would be, Wadir (ph) mentioned that something like secondary education for what? What's the nature of secondary education? And I think until that question is answered it would be very difficult to understand secondary education. And only when that question is answered it becomes the driving force for a country to do secondary education.
Again I want to focus on the Middle East, take Qatar, Morocco and Jordan. Only when they answer that question they know how to deal with it. They cannot address it without that. That's why we're ahead, because they answered the question. That came to them before cost, and that then drove the cost. Yemen is trying hard but they didn't answer the question. It's not yet moving as rapidly or as with quality, with understanding of what quality is to them the way, let's say Morocco is or Jordan is.
Finally, you mentioned that the benefits of primary education are more individual returns rather than socioeconomic returns. Could be true; however, I think it's important to look at the socioeconomic returns of secondary not as soon because primary did not give us the socioeconomic returns that we might think about that -- because primary didn't give that, secondary would follow the same path. I believe secondary would be very different. I believe many studies show that it's very different. I believe many studies on girls' education at the secondary level proved already that the socioeconomic benefits are huge. And I think that needs to be recognized.
MR. SPERLING: Thank you. And I actually thought you might be going in a little bit different direction in the Mideast which is also an interesting point, which is the enormous wealth in Qatar and Dubai right now. And they're -- and having talked with both governments recently -- trying to figure out how they share that among the region may open up an untapped source at least in that region.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. SPERLING: So I'll finish your thought. So one of the key points is having good education planning. And if you can supply 50 percent of all the natural gas to Canada and the U.S., that helps too. But thank you.
So, thank you everyone. Whenever we're having a good conversation like this, I always want to extend it an extra half-hour, but I also want you to feel that you can come and not think you'll be stuck here a half-hour longer than I told you. So what I'd like to do is give Joel and Melissa a chance to respond, have the final word, and then I am sure that this conversation can continue informally afterwards for as long as those are interested.
So, Joel and Melissa? MR. COHEN: First of all, thank you again, Gene, for setting this up and for your efforts in this area. And thanks to you for coming here to continue our education and for sharing your expertise and your perceptions and thoughts with us. It's been extremely valuable.
My email is email@example.com. That is a technological device for our continuing the conversation later. And I welcome documents, inputs, criticisms, suggestions, whatever.
I'd like to come back to Sara Sievers' issue. Thank you for assuring us that getting a ballpark estimate is a good opening wedge. That's useful. I would like to encourage you to carry back to the Gates Foundation the fact that education is a good investment even if you're interested only in health. And I'm sure there are people there who are --
Q (Off mike.)
MR. COHEN: I'm sure. (Laughter.) Yeah, but if I said so, then it's got to be true. (Laughter.) Anyway. But, because there are -- you know, you have to have a healthy body to learn. But learning helps you get a healthy body. They go together. And I'm preaching to the converted in this case. But I do think that there's a tremendous potential for synergy, and I suspect that in many cases investment in education will buy you more health per buck than targeted disease prevention programs because you produce problem solvers, people with the capacity to alter their environment and to alter their own behavior in ways that promote health.
You asked a very excellent question about how to distribute the 10 billion or 20 billion or 30 billion (dollars), whatever it is, how to make sure -- I would take a very tough-minded approach to that and ask that the money be given to people on the ground willing to design randomized controlled trials and do experiments to demonstrate the effectiveness of the education they are purporting to deliver.
One of my concerns about the education system is, "We've always done it this way; that must be the right way to do it." I don't buy that for one second. I think we should get out there and test whether, you know, is textbooks -- do we need more textbooks? Do we need fewer textbooks? Do we need -- (inaudible)? You know, school uniforms? What do we need? Let's evaluate it the same way we would evaluate a clinical intervention in medicine, and make sure that what we're spending the money on is effective, and be willing to spend 5 percent of program activities to evaluate the effectiveness. That way, we have the potential to learn. So my angle on it would be, let's be very tough but let's spend -- invest the money in knowledge about how to educate most effectively. That would be my take on that.
I want to thank you for the privilege of conversing, and I hope we'll continue the conversation. And especially thanks to Gene for his leadership and for hosting this conversation. MR. SPERLING: And let me thank you, and to say to Melissa, when -- one thing I learned when you used to have to run National Economic Council meetings back in the day was at times when there was a conversation that seemed kind of too big and something like universal secondary education, I would just get somebody somewhere to put down a proposal, just anything, just something concrete. Once there was something concrete on the table that focused everybody's mind -- and sometimes the first proposal or the first run didn't survive, but that started the conversation in a focused and tangible way.
And I think you've really done that. By doing something people talk about, you've at least kind of entered the field and given -- you know, you've done that first-mover work of trying to start doing this cost, and maybe this will lead to people thinking different ways to do it, different ways to go. But I think it's an incredible contribution when you focus the minds of everybody by putting something down like this for us to chew on and agree with, disagree with, think about. I think it's just a great contribution.
So, thank you. We will -- perhaps maybe we can have you back Joel on, you know, to get some feedback as you're writing on the new book. And I encourage others, as many of you do, to feel free to encourage other ideas for forums like this that we can do. So thank you very, very much for coming, and best holidays to everyone. (Applause.)
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