Long Term Effects of Free Primary Education on Educational Achievement: Evidence from Lesotho
African Economic Research Consortium
Many sub-Saharan African countries have instituted Free Primary Education (FPE) policies, which significantly increase primary school enrolment rates in developing countries. However, school attendance is different from learning. The main questions that still beg for answers are whether the many children in school are learning and whether the FPE learning effects are long-lasting. This paper attempts to estimate the long-term effects of the FPE programme on educational achievement in Lesotho. The programme was implemented grade by grade, beginning with grade one school fees abolition in 2000. The timing of the implementation created changes in programme coverage across age (and grade) groups over time. We employ a semi-parametric difference-in-differences strategy that exploits these variations to identify the long-term effects of the FPE policy on educational achievement, using university examinations record data for student cohorts that are FPE-treated and those that are FPE-untreated. The results indicate that the FPE effect on academic performance is between 2 percentage points (statistically insignificant) and 20 percentage points (statistically significant at a 1 percent level).