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To most people, "development" is best measured by the quantity of change – like gains in average income, life expectancy or years spent in school. The Human Development Index, a composite measure of national progress that my office at the United Nations Development Program oversees, combines all three statistics to rank countries relative to one another.What many do not realize, however, is that such metrics, while useful, do not tell the entire story of development. To gauge the relative quality of a country's education system, researchers would want to determine whether students are actually learning.Statisticians have always recognized that comparing quantities is far easier than comparing quality. Life expectancy statistics suggest that the world is getting healthier, and data show that people are living longer than ever before; since 1990, average life expectancy has increased by around six years.Some 250 million children worldwide do not learn basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school.Equitable human development requires that policymakers pay more attention to the quality of outcomes, rather than focusing primarily on quantitative measures of change.
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