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Randomized controlled trials in lower-income countries have demonstrated ways to increase learning, in specific settings. This study uses a large-scale, nationwide RCT in Ghana to show the external validity of four school-based interventions inspired by other RCTs. Even though the government implemented the programs within existing systems, student learning increased across all four models, more so for female than male students, and many gains persisted one year after the program ended. Three of the four interventions had a similar cost effectiveness. The intervention that directly targeted classroom teachers increased the likelihood that teachers were engaged with students.

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Working Paper
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June 22, 2020
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Se ha encontrado que la educación temprana tiene un efecto positivo sobre el hecho de que los estudiantes elijan cursos de matemáticas o ciencias en su curso educativo posterior o en sus elecciones profesionales. En Colombia, los investigadores se encuentran realizando un experimento aleatorio controlado para medir el impacto de un programa de educación preescolar basado en aprendizaje interactivo multimedia sobre las habilidades para las matemáticas y las ciencias de los niños, sobre sus estereotipos de género y de raza y sobre las creencias de los niños, los profesores y los padres. 

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June 15, 2020
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This study reports results from a randomized evaluation of a mandatory six-month internet-based sexual education course implemented across public junior high schools in 21 Colombian cities. Six months after finishing the course, the study finds a 0.4 standard deviation improvement in knowledge, a 0.2 standard deviation improvement in attitudes, and a 55 percent increase in the likelihood of redeeming vouchers for condoms as a result of taking the course. The data provide no evidence of spillovers to control classrooms within treatment schools. However, the analysis provides compelling evidence that treatment effects are enhanced when a larger share of a student’s friends also takes the course. The low cost of the online course along with the effectiveness the study documents suggests this technology is a viable alternative for improving sexual education in middle-income countries.

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Published Paper
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June 03, 2020
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Children often walk long distances to get to school in rural areas of developing countries, which contributes to high rates of absenteeism, particularly for girls. Can providing girls with bicycles to travel to school help address this problem? In rural Zambia, researchers partnered with World Bicycle Relief (WBR) to evaluate the impact of providing girls with bicycles to travel to school. The evaluation measured the impacts of the program on girls’ educational attainment and empowerment outcomes. Girls were eligible for the program if they were in 5th, 6th, or 7th grade and walked at least three kilometers to school.

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Brief
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April 30, 2020
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As public resources available for investment in the pre-primary sector are limited, a good understanding of current provision, and how government can best work with the non-state sector, is important to determine how to target limited resources most effectively. With a rise in public-private partnerships (PPP) in education in developing countries, the timing is right to explore how the Government of Côte d’Ivoire can leverage the non-state sector more strategically to achieve its objectives in the pre-primary sector. The Ministère de l’Education Nationale, de l'Enseignement Technique et de la Formation Professionnelle (MENETFP) requested EPG’s support in 2018 to inform national-level policy discussions by:

(i) improving MENETFP’s knowledge base and understanding of the quality of current pre-primary providers in selected areas of Abidjan and Bouaké and,

(ii) based on this information; develop a PPP pilot to improve pre-primary education access and quality in alignment with current initiatives. 

In collaboration with the MENETFP, EPG designed the study and data collection instruments and contracted Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to undertake the data collection and analysis. IPA’s analysis is outlined in chapters 2, 3 and 4. Other content may not reflect the views of IPA. The study complements existing research across Côte d’Ivoire by taking a deeper dive to understand provision specifically in the DRENs (Directions Régionales de l’Education Nationale) of Abidjan 3 and Bouaké 2. This choice was driven by (i) the MENETFP’s interest in focusing on the most disadvantaged children in urban and peri-urban areas and; (ii) the availability of different pre-primary providers for comparison purposes. 

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Report
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April 29, 2020
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The burden of food insecurity is large in Sub-Saharan Africa, yet the evidence-base on the relation between household food insecurity and early child development is extremely limited. Furthermore, available research mostly relies on cross-sectional data, limiting the quality of existing evidence. We use longitudinal data on preschool-aged children and their households in Ghana to investigate how being in a food insecure household was associated with early child development outcomes across three years. Household food insecurity was measured over three years using the Household Hunger Score. Households were first classified as “ever food insecure” if they were food insecure at any round. We also assessed persistence of household food insecurity by classifying households into three categories: (i) never food insecure; (ii) transitory food insecurity, if the household was food insecure only in one wave; and (iii) persistent food insecurity, if the household was food insecure in two or all waves. Child development was assessed across literacy, numeracy, social-emotional, short-term memory, and self-regulation domains. Controlling for baseline values of each respective outcome and child and household characteristics, children from ever food insecure households had lower literacy, numeracy and short-term memory. When we distinguished between transitory and persistent food insecurity, transitory spells of food insecurity predicted decreased numeracy (β = -0.176, 95% CI: -0.317; -0.035), short-term memory (β = -0.237, 95% CI: -0.382; -0.092), and self-regulation (β = -0.154, 95% CI: -0.326; 0.017) compared with children from never food insecure households. By contrast, children residing in persistently food insecure households had lower literacy scores (β = -0.243, 95% CI: -0.496; 0.009). No gender differences were detected. Results were broadly robust to the inclusion of additional controls. This novel evidence from a Sub-Saharan African country highlights the need for multi-sectoral approaches including social protection and nutrition to support early child development

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April 03, 2020
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Participatory development is designed to mitigate problems of political bias in pre-existing local government but also interacts with it in complex ways. Using a five-year randomized controlled study in 97 clusters of villages (194 villages) in Ghana, we analyze the effects of a major participatory development program on participation in, leadership of and investment by pre-existing political institutions, and on households’ overall socioeconomic well-being. Applying theoretical insights on political participation and redistributive politics, we consider the possibility of both cross-institutional mobilization and displacement, and heterogeneous effects by partisanship. We find the government and its political supporters acted with high expectations for the participatory approach: treatment led to increased participation in local governance and reallocation of resources. But the results did not meet expectations, resulting in a worsening of socioeconomic wellbeing in treatment versus control villages for government supporters. This demonstrates international aid’s complex distributional consequences. 

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Working Paper
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April 02, 2020
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As in many other developing countries, children under the age of five in rural parts of Ghana often fail to reach their development potential. This study evaluated the impacts of the Lively Minds program, a low-cost, community-run, play-based preschool learning program, that engaged both teachers and parents on early childhood development.

Key Findings:

At the end of the one-year study:

  • The Lively Minds program increased children’s cognition, with significant improvements in emergent-numeracy, executive function, and fine motor skills.
  • The effect of the program on the cognitive skills of children from the poorest 20 percent of households was twice as high as that of children from better-off households. There was also a significant improvement in the literacy skills of the disadvantaged children that was not observed for the rest.
  • Children’s socio-emotional development improved, with the program leading to a reduction in externalizing behavior, including both conduct problems and hyperactive behaviors.
  • Notably, the program led to a reduction in acute malnutrition among the participating children and an increase in average mid-upper arm circumference, an indicator of malnutrition.
  • The program also increased mothers’ parenting knowledge, increased the amount of time they spent on developmentally appropriate activities, and changed their teaching style (i.e. the way they interact with their children in the context of teaching a new task).
  • Overall, the findings suggest that the Lively Minds approach is an effective and potentially scalable way to improve children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development, health, and school readiness.
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February 25, 2020
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¿Pueden los cursos de educación sexual en línea mejorar el conocimiento, las actitudes y el comportamiento de los estudiantes en materia de salud sexual? ¿Estos cursos también tienen efectos positivos en los compañeros de los estudiantes que toman el curso? Los investigadores evaluaron el impacto de un curso de educación sexual en línea sobre el conocimiento y el comportamiento sexual de los estudiantes de escuelas secundarias urbanas colombianas. El programa de educación tuvo un impacto significativo en conocimiento y actitudes. No se encontraron impactos en las medidas de comportamiento auto informadas, pero el programa condujo a una reducción en la incidencia de enfermedades de transmisión sexual entre las mujeres sexualmente activas. Además, los resultados mostraron un aumento significativo en la redención de cupones para condones entre los estudiantes del grupo de tratamiento.

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February 12, 2020
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In 2016, the Liberian government delegated management of 93 randomly selected public schools to private providers. Providers received US$50 per pupil, on top of US$50 per pupil annual expenditure in control schools. After one academic year, students in outsourced schools scored 0.18σ higher in English and mathematics. We do not find heterogeneity in learning gains or enrollment by student characteristics, but there is significant heterogeneity across providers. While outsourcing appears to be a cost-effective way to use new resources to improve test scores, some providers engaged in unforeseen and potentially harmful behavior, complicating any assessment of welfare gains.

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Published Paper
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January 31, 2020
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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. 

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Brief
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December 17, 2019
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The Liberian Education Advancement Partnership (LEAP), originally known as Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), began in 2016 with 93 public schools, and has since expanded to an additional 101 schools. The model is similar to charter schools in the United States or academies in the United Kingdom. LEAP schools remain public schools, charge no fees, and are staffed by public school teachers, but each school is managed by one of eight private contractors, including three for-profit companies and five charities which have taken responsibility for everything from teacher in-service training to fixing leaks in the roof. 

While originally motivated by the government’s desire to improve test scores, the initiative has been dogged by the expulsion of students by private operators, an alleged coverup of sexual abuse of minors, and cost overruns. 

This brief summarizes the results of a three-year randomized control trial, comparing outcomes for children in LEAP schools to those in regular government schools through March-May 2019. We highlight impacts on four dimensions: access, learning, sustainability, and child safety. Results vary enormously across operators, and the overall picture for some operators looks much better (or worse) than the average.

Read the full paper here.

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Brief
Date:
December 15, 2019
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Enrollment in early childhood education has increased dramatically in Ghana, but the education sector now faces the challenge of ensuring young children learn and develop school readiness skills. This study evaluated the impacts of a scalable, in-service training and coaching program for kindergarten teachers, with and without parental awareness meetings, on teaching practices and children’s learning and development.

Key Findings:

  • The in-service teacher training and coaching improved teachers’ use of the play-based kindergarten-specific pedagogy that is specified in Ghana’s national early childhood education curriculum.
  • The program led to moderate impacts on teachers’ professional well-being, reducing teacher burnout for all teachers, and teacher turnover in the private sector.
  • The teacher-training and coaching improved children’s school readiness, including their early literacy, early numeracy, and social-emotional skills in the first year. One year later, when children moved to their next year of schooling, the impacts on social-emotional development persisted. Two years later, preliminary evidence shows sustained gains in literacy, executive function, and behavioral regulation. There were also persistent positive impacts on both literacy and numeracy outcomes in classrooms with high emotional support and in classrooms where teachers had low burnout levels.
  • The parental awareness meetings were not effective in improving children’s outcomes, and alternative approaches to engage parents need to be explored.
  • Overall, the results of the in-service teacher training hold promise for improving the quality of education delivered in Ghana’s kindergarten educational system.
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Brief
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September 03, 2019

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