A team led by Professor Dong Eun Rhee wins the Elsevier Atlas Award
Analysis of the impact of toilets on education in developing countries
Research was published in the International Journal of Educational Development
▲ From left, Yong Su Jeon, President of Elsevier Korea, Professor Dong Eun Rhee, Korea University,
Hyung Jong Kim, associate research fellow of associate research fellow,
and Sung Han Kim, Dean of Korea University Graduate School of International Studies and Division of International Studies
The paper, co-authored by Professor Dong Eun Rhee of the Korea University Division of International Studies, Graduate School of International Studies and Hyung Jong Kim, associate researcher at the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, was honored with the Elsevier Atlas Award, selected and presented by the global publishing and analytics company, Elsevier. Elsevier established the Atlas Award in 2015 to select one paper from those published in more than 3,800 international journals that was considered to have contributed significantly to the lives of people around the world.
The title of the award-winning paper is “Toilets for education: Evidence from Kenya’s primary school-level data,” which was published in the International Journal of Educational Development in October 2019. The paper not only emphasizes that education is a basic right of children, but also points out that because the accumulation of human capital through education is a key element of sustainable economic development, raising the level of education in developing countries is a very important policy task. The study noted that the overall level of education in most developing countries was lower than that of developed countries and that there was a serious problem of gender inequality in education—the education level of girls was considerably lower than that of boys.
Professor Rhee and Dr. Kim used the unit data of Kenya schools to empirically analyze which school attributes were most important for improving elementary school attendance. The results showed that sex-specific toilets in elementary schools increased attendance, regardless of grade or gender. The absence of school toilets causes hygiene and health problems in the lower grades of elementary school and safety and privacy problems in the upper grades. This effect is most pronounced in older girls because, in addition to hygiene problems caused by the lack of toilets, girls entering puberty have increased safety and privacy issues. Thus, the paper concludes that the construction of gender-separate school toilets should be a policy goal for reducing gender discrimination in education, as well as for improving overall education in developing countries.
Upon receiving the award, Professor Rhee and Dr. Kim said, “As economists, the ultimate goal is to contribute to making a better society through research, and we hope that the results of this study will help to improve the educational level of children in developing countries.”
The paper is published in the Elsevier database, ScienceDirect (https://www.sciencedirect.com), and can be viewed for free. In addition, professional journalists will prepare a summary of social implications to help the world understand and run Q&A sessions with the winners.