Variation in Education between Industrial and Developing Countries

While there remain many differences between developing and industrialized nations, one particularly important area in which these differences persist is in education. This essay examines some of the many differences in education between developing and industrialized nations, including differences in access to education, quality of education received, and availability and uptake of higher education.

Access to Education

One of the major differences in education between industrial and developing nations is the level of access which children have to education. Children in developing countries tend to have far less access to education at all levels than children in industrialized nations, although the differences have been particularly well studied in relation to primary education. For example it is estimated that of the 113 million children of primary school age across the world who don’t have access to education, 94 percent live in developing nations (Glewwe & Kremer, 2006).

There are many different factors which may contribute to this, and in fact there are many subgroups within developing countries which differ in terms of access to education. For example those living in rural areas are far less likely to have access to education at any level than those living in urban areas. In addition, some groups such as females and those with disabilities may also have much lower access to education for a number of reasons, many of which may be governed by cultural beliefs and expectations and financial factors (Filmer, 2008).

School Enrolment and Years in Education

Even where education is available, there are still often low enrolment rates in developing nations. This may be partially related to legislation in different countries – for example schooling is mandatory to a certain age in most industrial nations, while it is still predominantly voluntary in most developing nations. In addition, other factors in these countries may dominate the level of enrolment within certain groups, for example in many developing nations fewer females are enrolled in schools than males due to expectations for their performing domestic duties from a young age (Lloyd et al., 2008).

In fact there appear to be significant differences in the years of schooling which are typically received by school children in developing nations and industrialized countries, even where rates of enrolment may be initially quite high. It has been suggested that the mean years of schooling has increased by around 3 years across developing countries since the 1960s, but most schoolchildren in developing nations still receive many years less schooling than those in richer countries (Glewwe & Kremer, 2006).

Quality of Education

There is also suggested to be a stark contrast in the quality of education which is offered to children in developing nations when compared to industrialized countries. The evidence which is cited as indicating lower quality includes much higher rates of grade repetition and the early leaving age of many children from school (Glewwe & Kremer, 2006). While this may to some extent indicate a lower quality of education (Hanushek et al., 2008), it must however also be considered that a lower school leaving age may also be associated with a need to engage in employment in a younger age in many developing countries (Gunnarsson et al., 2006).

There are many different factors which may contribute to the lower quality education which is found in many developing nations, including a lack of funding and a lack of resources including both basic teaching materials and access to suitably qualified teaching staff (Glewwe & Kramer, 2006). Many developing nations may be in a difficult position to address these problems without outside assistance from developed countries.

Higher Education

Access to education is not only much lower in primary education in developing nations, but also higher levels of education. Higher education remains far more popular in the industrialized countries than in developing countries, and several studies have shown there to have been a marked increase in uptake in industrialized nations since the Second World War. For example most industrialized countries now have a university enrolment rate of more than 50 percent of the 18 to 21 year age group, while some have a rate of up to 80 percent (Schofer & Meyer, 2005). This does not however necessarily reflect a difference in the level of education in the younger age groups; instead this is more likely to be related to differences in the demand for higher education qualifications and the availability of funding for these courses. For example in many developing nations there remains more of an emphasis on practical training and there may also be less financial support for higher education courses (Altbach & Knight, 2006).


It is clear that there remain substantial differences between many developing and industrialized nations in terms of the education which is both offered and received. It is recognized that the differences in the levels of access to education, the rates of enrolment and the quality of education which is delivered may be particularly important, as each of these may be directly related to the economic development of a country.

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