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.
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.
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.
- 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 allteachers, and teacher turnover in the private sector.
- The teacher-training and coaching improved children’s school readiness, including their early literacy, earlynumeracy, 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 persistentpositive impacts on both literacy and numeracy outcomes in classrooms with high emotional support and inclassrooms 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.
Improving education sector performance is a key policy priority for the Government of Ghana, and the Ministry of Education is currently undergoing a sector reform towards achieving effectiveness in education services delivery. To ensure that well-intentioned policy goals translate into improved learning outcomes, decision-makers are eager to: (1) learn about interventions and innovative practices that have proven to work; and (2) use such evidence and innovative solutions to improve planning and education services delivery.
The Evidence Summit, which forms part of the National Education Week (NEW), will bring together policymakers, researchers and practitioners to: a) share rigorous evidence that has been collected about innovative approaches to improve learning outcomes, in Ghana and internationally; and b) identify ways in which evidence can be used to drive the implementation of priority reforms, and facilitate better decision-making processes.
Accumulating evidence suggests that pay-for-performance (P4P) contracts can elicit greater effort from incumbent civil servants, but less is known about how these contracts affect the composition of the public sector workforce. We provide the first experimental evidence of the impact of P4P on both the compositional and effort margins. In partnership with the Government of Rwanda, we implemented a ‘pay-for-percentile’ scheme (Barlevy and Neal 2012) in a novel two-tier experimental design. In the first tier, we randomly assigned teacher labor markets to either P4P or equivalent fixed-wage contracts. In the second tier, we implemented a ‘surprise’, school-level re-randomization, allowing us to separately identify the compositional effects of advertised P4P contracts and the effort effects of experienced P4P contracts. Our pre-analysis plan sets out a theoretical framework that helps to define a set of hypotheses, and conducts simulations on blinded data to develop high-powered tests. We find that P4P contracts did change the composition of the teaching workforce, drawing in individuals who were more money-oriented, as measured by a framed Dictator Game. But these recruits were not less effective teachers—if anything the reverse. On the effort margin, we observe substantial and statistically significant gains in teacher value added, mirrored in positive effects on teacher presence and observed pedagogy in the classroom. In Year 2, we estimate the total effect of P4P, across compositional and effort margins, to be 0.21 standard deviations of pupil learning. One quarter of this impact can be attributed to selection at the recruitment stage, with the remaining three-quarters arising from increased effort.
In Ghana, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work in this brief offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Ghanaian poor.
This paper examines the effects of a government-sponsored apprenticeship training program designed to address high levels of youth unemployment in Ghana. The study exploits randomized access to the program to examine the short-run effects of apprenticeship training on labor market outcomes. The results show that apprenticeships shift youth out of wage work and into self-employment. However, the loss of wage income is not offset by increases in self-employment profits in the short run. In addition, the study uses the randomized match between apprentices and training providers to examine the causal effect of characteristics of trainers on outcomes for apprentices. Participants who trained with the most experienced trainers or the most profitable ones had higher earnings. These increases more than offset the program’s negative treatment effect on earnings. This suggests that training programs can be made more effective through better recruitment of trainers.
We assessed the impacts of a teacher professional development program for public and private kindergartens in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. We examined impacts on teacher professional well-being, classroom quality, and children’s readiness during one school year. This cluster-randomized trial included 240 schools (teachers N = 444; children N = 3,345, Mage = 5.2) randomly assigned to one of three conditions: teacher training (TT), teacher training plus parental-awareness meetings (TTPA), and controls. The programs incorporated workshops and in-classroom coaching for teachers and video-based discussion groups for parents. Moderate impacts were found on some dimensions of professional well-being (reduced burnout in the TT and TTPA conditions, reduced turnover in the TT condition), classroom quality (increased emotional support/behavior management in the TT and TTPA conditions, support for student expression in the TT condition), and small impacts on multiple domains of children’s school readiness (in the TT condition). The parental-awareness meetings had counteracting effects on child school readiness outcomes. Implications for policy and practice are discussed for Ghana and for early childhood education in low- and middle-income countries.
In Rwanda, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Rwandan poor.
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.
We present results from a large-scale randomized experiment across 350 schools in Tanzania that studied the impact of providing schools with (a) unconditional grants, (b) teacher incentives based on student performance, and (c) both of the above. After two years, we find (a) no impact on student test scores from providing school grants, (b) some evidence of positive effects from teacher incentives, and (c) significant positive effects from providing both programs. Most importantly, we find strong evidence of complementarities between the two programs, with the effect of joint provision being significantly greater than the sum of the individual effects. Our results suggest that combining spending on school inputs (which is the default policy) with improved teacher incentives could substantially increase the cost-effectiveness of public spending on 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.