Benin's progress in education: Expanding access and narrowing the gender gap

Research reports and studies
June 2011
Jakob Engel with Edmond Magloire Cossou and Pauline Rose

In 1990, Benin had one of the world's lowest primary and secondary school enrolment rates, with enormous gender, socioeconomic and regional disparities in access to education. Since then, initial access to primary education has been approaching universality. The gender gap has narrowed substantially, and has in some regions been eliminated.

Successive governments since 1990 have placed a higher priority on addressing the education sector's many deficiencies and making access for all children a constitutional right and a key policy objective. Development partners have provided substantial funding and technical expertise. Finally, outreach campaigns by Benin's government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been instrumental in addressing demand-side constraints and fostering normative changes in the value of education for boys and girls.

A central lesson from Benin's education reform process is that it is possible to achieve substantial improvements in access and equity in low-income countries with limited institutional capacity if there is sufficient political support, financial support and engagement at local levels. However, many challenges remain. The expansion of the system, a lack of trained teachers, high rates of population growth and substantial existing institutional and political constraints have overextended the government's capacity to meet demand for education.