Since the mid-1990s, Mongolia has recovered from the most severe drop in post-primary education enrolment seen in any Central Asian transition economy, now achieving enrolment rates that rival its neighbours and even those of some OECD countries. Since 1994, school life expectancy has nearly doubled, with new starters in 2010 expected to complete more than 14 years of education. In addition, significant gains in equity have been made, with access gaps between urban and rural, rich and poor, and girls and boys all having narrowed since the transition period.
This case study explores how Mongolia rebuilt its education system, focusing particularly on the substantial progress in extending higher levels of schooling. Four key factors are seen to have driven improvements in post-primary education: the high societal value placed on education and qualifications; major investment by the Government of Mongolia in education; governance reforms in the sector; and, finally, external support from development partners. Challenges of course remain. The principal one is that progress on education quality has failed to match the progress made on enrolment – a major stumbling block for students making the transition from school to work. Even so, Mongolia’s progress on extending secondary and tertiary education can provide important lessons to other countries facing similar pressures of economic shock, demographic transition and rural-to-urban migration.