Working Paper
Duration of pre-university education and labour market outcomes

Evidence from a quasi-experiment in Ghana

This paper provides new evidence on the causal effect of shortening the duration of pre-university education on long-term labour market outcomes in Ghana.

We use the education reform of 1987 as a natural experiment, which reduced the years of education prior to university from 17 to 12 years. Our identification strategy uses a regression discontinuity design, taking advantage of the situation that pre- and post-reform birth cohorts entered the labour market around the same time, thus facing similar conditions.

Our results indicate that the drastic cut in the duration of pre-tertiary education improved the labour market success of treated cohorts. However, this is driven by a ‘quantity’ effect: the shorter course duration reduced the direct and indirect costs of acquiring post-primary education and allowed more students to enrol, which provided access to better job opportunities. On aggregate, this has dominated the negative effect on education ‘quality’.