Global efforts are underway to improve education quality—to ensure children are not only in school but learning and developing to their full potential. Although many theories exist on the best approaches to improve education quality, policymakers and implementers need evidence on which programs are effective at helping children actually learn while in school. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a research and policy nonprofit that discovers and advances what works to reduce poverty and improve lives. In addition to conducting rigorous research, IPA reviews and consolidates research for policymakers and practitioners. The objective is to distill complex, nuanced, and dynamic research findings into focused and actionable recommendations. This brief summarizes and provides key lessons from multiple meta-analyses and over two-dozen randomized evaluations (both IPA and non-IPA studies) on improving learning outcomes in low-income countries, with a focus on basic education.
A pesar de la importancia del desarrollo de habilidades en ciencias y resolución de problemas para educadores, padres, y estudiantes, la evidencia rigurosa sobre el aprendizaje y enseñanza de ciencias en edades tempranas es escasa. Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) se encargó de evaluar una intervención que fue implementada como resultado de una colaboración entre el Ministerio de Educación y Ciencias (MEC), el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID), la Asociación de Utilidad Pública Juntos por la Educación, y Agencia Internacional de Cooperación del Japón (JICA). La intervención es una pedagogía bilingüe (guaraní-español) basada en el enfoque de la indagación para la enseñanza de ciencias guiada a través de audio-grabaciones.
Standard models of delegation assume that agents are better informed than principals about how to implement a particular task. We estimate the value of the informational advantage held by supervisors (the agents) when ministerial leadership (the principal) introduced a new monitoring technology aimed at improving the performance of agricultural extension agents (AEAs) in rural Paraguay. Our approach employs a novel experimental design in which, before randomization of treatment, we first elicited from supervisors which AEAs they believed should be prioritized for treatment. We semi-parametrically estimate marginal treatment effects (MTEs) and perform counterfactual exercises varying the principal’s allocation rule and access to information. We find that supervisors did have valuable information—they prioritized AEAs who would be more responsive to the monitoring treatment. The AEAs’ responsiveness is not easily observable to principals or analysts. We show both theoretically and empirically that the value of information and the benefits to decentralizing depend crucially on the sophistication of the principal and on the scale of rollout (i.e. the share of AEAs to receive treatment). When the principal is uninformed, decentralization usually dominates. A partially informed principal with data on basic observable AEA characteristics can outdo supervisors. The principal’s advantage is largest if he can conduct a pilot RCT and subsequently expand roll-out based on predicted response to treatment. These results highlight the potential for evolving state capabilities for data analysis to alter government structure.
Siguiendo con nuestra tradición global, en Paraguay hemos realizado investiga- ciones aplicables y rigurosas en áreas de interés nacional, mientras construimos capacidades fundamentales de inves- tigación. Los ejemplos de investigación presentados a continuación ofrecen evidencia prometedora sobre cuestio- nes que afectan a la población pobre en América Latina.
Research indicates that preschool children need to learn pre-math skills to build a foundation for primary- and secondary-level mathematics. This paper presents the results from the early stages of a pilot mathematics program implemented in Cordillera, Paraguay. In a context of significant gaps in teacher preparation and pedagogy, the program uses interactive audio segments that cover the entire preschool math curriculum. Since Paraguayan classrooms tend to be bilingual, the audio and written materials use a combination of Spanish and Guaraní. Based on an experimental evaluation since the program’s implementation, we document positive and significant improvements of 0.16 standard deviations in standardized test scores. The program helped narrow learning gaps between low- and high-performing students, and between students with trained teachers and those whose teachers lack formal training in early childhood education. Moreover, the program improved learning equally among both Guaraní- and Spanish-speaking students. But not all learning gaps narrowed as a result of the program. Although girls improved significantly, boys improved much more, ultimately increasing the gender gap. To close this gender gap, the program has been modified to encourage girls’ increased participation in the classroom and general interest in math.
In 2013 IPA celebrated ten years of producing high-quality evidence about what works, and what does not work, to improve the lives of the poor. It was a year of celebration for our accomplishments. More so, it was a time to prepare our organization for the next phase as we continue to pursue our vision of a world with More Evidence and Less Poverty.
View an online version of the report at annualreport.poverty-action.org/2013annualreport/