The dominant role played by the state in the financing, regulation, and provision of primary and secondary education reflects the widely-held belief that education is necessary for personal and societal well-being. The economic organization of education depends on political as well as market mechanisms to resolve issues that arise because of contrasting views on such matters as income inequality, social mobility, and diversity.
Recent decades have seen almost unprecedented economic growth in income per capita around the world. Yet this extraordinary overall performance masks a wide variation in growth rates across different countries, with persistent underdevelopment in some parts of the world. This disparity constitutes “the development puzzle,” and it is exemplified by growth spurts in China and India that contrast markedly with disturbingly low growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa.