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.
Globally, violence against women is a leading cause of premature death and morbidity for women and almost one-third of women report experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their life. Yet rigorous evidence on scalable and effective ways to reduce IPV is limited, in part because measuring IPV is challenging. Current standards of practice for reducing gender-based violence are also relatively limited in scope, focusing mainly on changing gender norms. Designing and testing new approaches has the potential to yield more effective solutions. IPA’s Intimate Partner Violence Initiative, a partnership with the International Rescue Committee, exists to address these challenges. The initiative designs and tests innovative solutions to IPV, leverages existing research to identify factors that contribute to IPV and works to address methodological and measurement challenges in violence research and related fields. With our academic and implementing partners, IPA has identified a number of effective solutions, including mass media campaigns, coupling women’s economic empowerment with gender dialogue, and teaching secondary school students soft skills. Results from several initiative-supported studies are forthcoming. Further research will be needed to validate results in new contexts and at scale, and to design and evaluate new ideas.
Children and parents sometimes make ill-informed educational choices, resulting in unrealized educational goals, children dropping out of school, and children joining the labor force. In partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action and the Ministry of Education in Peru, researchers designed and rigorously evaluated two interventions intended to improve decision-making about education and time-use by providing schoolchildren and their families with information about the returns to education.
- Students’ and parents’ perceptions of the financial benefits to education increased. Accessing information about the social and financial returns to education via videos and an interactive tablet application corrected misconceptions about the benefits of education.
- Dropout rates fell. Information had a significant negative effect on dropout rates in both rural and urban areas.
- Child labor effects were mixed. Videos decreased child labor for girls in urban areas, but did not affect child labor in rural areas. The tablet application reduced child labor among 6th graders in rural areas, but not among other groups.
- The Ministry of Education in Peru is continuing the intervention in 2,001 secondary schools. The marginal cost of the video campaign was less than US$0.05 per student (not including the fixed costs of producing the video). Given the low cost and promising results, the Ministry of Education is scaling the use of these videos in after school programs.
* These results are preliminary and may change after further data collection and analysis.
The Strategic Planning Secretariat of the Ministry of Education, with technical assistance from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), is implementing an education lab for innovations. This Lab is an innovative approach to policymaking, which creates a learning space to design low cost interventions that have the potential to trigger big impacts in learning and implementation outcomes. The proposed interventions will be rigorously tested using the Ministry’s administrative data systems when available, with the aim of scaling those innovations that prove to be effective. The Lab’s combination of low-cost interventions with the use of administrative data offers a highly efficient scheme for innovation and design of public policies based on evidence, both in terms of resources and availability of timely results without interfering with the implementation of the Ministry’s interventions.
Read more about MineduLAB here.
A multi-faceted program comprising a grant of productive assets, training, coaching, and savings has been found to build sustainable income for those in extreme poverty. We focus on two important questions: whether a mere grant of productive assets would generate similar impacts (it does not), and whether access to a savings account and a deposit collection service would generate similar impacts (it does not).
Past research suggests that improving citizen political knowledge and coordination can increase political participation and accountability and help channel grievances through democratic processes rather than conflict. A randomized field experiment in Peru demonstrates that civic education can sometimes have perverse effects on these outcomes. I find that civic education workshops reduce participation in the district’s “participatory budgeting” process and increase support for protest as a tool for sanctioning politicians. Although the intervention increases the initiation of recalls for poor-performing mayors, these mayors respond to the recall threat by further reducing their effort. Taken together the evidence suggests that improved information and coordination of local elites is not sufficient to improve government performance where it has previous lagged.