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Schooling without Learning: Family Background and Educational Performance in Francophone Africa

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Influential reports about the ‘learning crisis’ in the global South generally focus on low average levels of learning, rather than on social inequalities in learning. This study explores the association between family socio-economic status (SES) and primary school learning outcomes in 10 Francophone African countries. I develop and test a conceptual framework that highlights three mechanisms through which family SES might contribute to learning: educational resources at home, physical deprivation, and differences in school quality. I show that most of the effect of family background on learning outcomes operates through school quality, which results from a combination of the unequal distribution of resources (such as teachers and textbooks) across schools and high socio-economic segregation between schools. Most countries in the region can improve equity as well as overall performance by redistributing resources across schools.

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