Do Education Reforms Increase Access to Learning?

Systematic education reforms are widespread and common; virtually every nation articulates and embarks on a path of education reform. However, despite their ubiquitous nature, education reforms are often criticized for failing to yield meaningful results. This study challenges the common critique that systematic education reforms are ineffective acts of window dressing. Using a longitudinal, cross-national database and two-way fixed effects, we assess the influence of education reforms on educational outcomes as measured by growth of access to secondary education. Our empirical analyses show that there is a strong positive association between countries’¬†adoption of education reforms dedicated to expanding access to education and growth in secondary enrollment. We find evidence that counters the widely accepted conception that reforms do not improve the education systems. We also provide a nuanced framework for understanding where critiques of education reform emerge from: Gains are rather small in magnitude and diminish over time.