WHY DID UNIVERSITIES PRECEDE PRIMARY SCHOOLS? A POLITICAL ECONOMY MODEL OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE

Authors

  • FALI HUANG

    1. Huang: Assistant Professor, School of Economics, Singapore Management University, 90 Stamford Road, Singapore 178903, Singapore. Phone 65-68280859, Fax 65-68280833, E-mail flhuang@smu.edu.sg
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    • I thank the editor, Vincenzo Quadrini, and an anonymous referee as well as participants at WEAI 2009 Kyoto conference for very helpful comments.


Abstract

Universities were first established in Europe around the twelfth century, although primary schools did not appear until the nineteenth. This paper accounts for this phenomenon using a political economy model of educational change on who are educated (the elite or the masses) and what is taught (general or specific/vocational education). A key assumption is that general education is more effective than specific education in enhancing one's skills in a broad range of tasks, including political rent-seeking. Its findings suggest that specific education for the masses is compatible with the elite rule, whereas mass general education is not, which refines the conventional association between education and democracy. (JEL O10, O40, P16, N10)

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