Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Why did universities precede primary schools? A political economy model of educational change

an article by Fali Huang (Singapore Management University) published in Economic Inquiry Volume 50 Issue 2 (April 2012)


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 codes: N10, O10, O40, P16

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