Rural and Urban Issues in Education Sector Planning in Mongolia: A Case Study from the Evaluation Report on the Education Sector Development Program in Mongolia

Evaluation Document | 1 February 2008
The following discussion contextualizes issues in relation to the future of rural and urban education sector planning in Mongolia.

When the Education Sector Development Program was designed in 1993-1996, more than half of the population was living outside urban centers. Between 1990 and 2000, the population of Ulaanbaatar increased by 27%. The 2000 census showed that the rural proportion had declined to 43% and that rural to urban migration was increasing, particularly in Ulaanbaatar. Now at least one third of the population in Ulaanbaatar and the smaller cities of Darhan and Erdenet are migrants from rural areas.

The Operations Evaluation Mission (OEM) discerned two points of view among Mongolians and aid agencies with respect to the needs of the education sector in relation to demographic trends.

  • The first emphasizes the need to invest in more and better quality rural services to encourage Mongolians to remain within the traditional nomadic pastoral economy. This strategy, it is assumed, would reduce unemployment, encourage self-reliance, and preserve traditional Mongolian cultures.
  • The second point of view holds that Mongolia cannot afford to spread its investment in education too widely or thinly, while still maintaining good-quality educational outcomes. Instead, investment should be in the larger, better-quality schools in urban centers, selected because of their long-term economic growth prospects.

Based on its observations, the OEM is inclined to the second viewpoint, but recognizes that there are difficult issues to be addressed. The social trend is from a rural to an urban way of life, as well as the (now well advanced) transition from a centrally planned to a market economy.


  • Historical Trends
  • Perspectives on Future Priorities for Education
  • Case Study of a Subdistrict School
  • A Future-Oriented Strategy