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.

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July 21, 2018
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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.

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June 04, 2018
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Rates of participation in early childhood education (ECE) programs are on the rise globally, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet little evidence exists on the quality of these programs and on the role of classroom quality in predicting learning for young children across diverse contexts. This study uses data from the Greater Accra Region of Ghana (N = 3,407; Mage = 5.8 years; 49.5% female) to examine how changes in four culturally-validated dimensions of ECE classroom quality predict children’s growth in early academic and social-emotional skills from the beginning to the end of one academic year. We find that improvements in domains of classroom instructional quality are related to small, positive gains in children’s early academic and social-emotional outcomes over the school year, and that these improvements are generally larger for children and classrooms with higher baseline proficiency and quality levels. Associations between changes in social-emotional aspects of classroom quality and child outcomes were mixed. These results extend the knowledge base on ECE quality to a new and under-represented context while also providing important information regarding the contexts and children for whom teacher training and other quality-focused improvement efforts may be most needed.

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May 22, 2018

This study examines how parent socioeconomic status (SES) directly and indirectly predicts children’s school readiness through pathways of parental investment. Data come from direct assessments with preschool children and surveys with their primary caregivers in Ghana at the start of the 2015–2016 school year (N = 2,137; Mage = 5.2 years). Results revealed SES-related gaps in all parental investment characteristics and child school readiness skills. Preschool involvement served as the primary mediating mechanism in the path from SES to most school readiness skills, though it did not predict executive function. The number of books in the household was marginally positively predictive of early literacy, whereas at-home stimulation was negatively related to motor, literacy, and numeracy skills.

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May 22, 2018
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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.

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May 03, 2018
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Using a randomized control trial, we examine whether offering adolescent girls nonmaterial resources – specifically, negotiation skills – can improve educational outcomes in a low-income country. In so doing, we provide the first evidence on the effects of an intervention that increased non-cognitive, interpersonal skills during adolescence. Long-run administrative data shows that negotiation training significantly improved educational outcomes over the next three years. The training had greater effects than two alternative treatments (offering girls a safe physical space with female mentors and offering girls information about the returns to education), suggesting that negotiation skills themselves drive the effect. Further evidence from a lab-in-the-field experiment, which simulates parents’ educational investment decisions, and a midline survey suggests that negotiation skills improved girls’ outcomes by moving households’ human capital investments closer to the efficient frontier. This is consistent with an incomplete contracting model, where negotiation allows daughters to strategically cooperate with parents.

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April 28, 2018

Using a randomized-control trial, this study evaluates a program designed to support Ghanaian kindergarten student-teachers during pre-service training through mentorship and in-classroom training. Several potential barriers to improved teaching quality and learning outcomes are examined. Findings show that the program improved knowledge and implementation of the national curriculum for individuals both when they were student-teachers and, the following year, when they became newly qualified teachers (NQTs). There were mixed impacts on professional well-being, increasing personal accomplishment and motivation but decreasing job satisfaction for NQTs. There were mixed impacts on teaching quality, with increases in child-led learning but decreases in some other aspects of quality. There were no impacts on NQTs’ student learning outcomes. The findings highlight system level challenges with both the posting of NQTs and the absence of support in their first teaching year. Implications for global early childhood education policy and teacher education are discussed.

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March 30, 2018

This study uses data from the Health and Literacy Intervention (HALI) program evaluation, an in-service teacher training program focused on early grade literacy instruction for class one teachers. We assess how changes in classroom instructional processes impacted by the HALI teacher training were associated with improved early literacy outcomes for children. We find that experimentally induced increases in exposure to print—measured both through changes to time spent reading in class and through print displayed in the classroom—were associated with improvements in students’ reading fluency and reading comprehension. Implications for global education efforts to improve learning outcomes are discussed.

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March 08, 2018

In 2015-2017 Twaweza East Africa implemented KiuFunza II, a randomized performance pay trial in the early grades of public primary schools in Tanzania. This trial is part of an experimental program to improve learning introduced by Twaweza in collaboration with J-PAL/IPA.

KiuFunza implemented two different teacher performance pay systems. The first system is called Stadi (levels) and rewards teachers based on the number of students that reach specific proficiency levels. The second is called Mashindano (gains) and rewards teachers based on their students’ test score ranking relative to children with the same starting level. 

The performance pay learning impact was studied in a nationally representative sample of 180 schools (60 schools randomly selected into each of the two incentive pay programs, and 60 control schools). The evaluation finds that both teacher performance pay systems improved student test scores. The simpler “levels” system was at least as effective in raising student learning as the more complex “gains” system.

Furthermore, the levels scheme had a more equitable distribution of benefits, improving learning across all initial ability levels.

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February 20, 2018
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Can outsourcing improve government services in fragile states? To answer this question, we present results from a field experiment to study the Partnership Schools for Liberia program. This program delegated management of 93 public schools — staffed by government teachers and run free of charge to students — to private providers. We randomly assigned treatment at the school level and sampled students from pre-treatment enrollment records to identify the effectiveness of the treatment without confounding the effect of endogenous sorting of pupils into schools. After one academic year, students in outsourced schools scored .18σ higher in English and mathematics than students in control schools. Private providers improved significantly reduced teacher absenteeism (“better management”), but also spent more per student and employed more teachers than control schools (“extra resources”). Non- experimental mediation analysis suggests better management and extra resources played roughly equal roles in improving student performance. Our design allows us to study heterogeneity across providers: While the highest-performing providers generated increases in learning of 0.26σ, the lowest-performing had no impact on learning. In line with program rules, there is no evidence that providers engaged in selective admissions, which was explicitly prohibited. However, one provider shifted pupils from oversubscribed schools and underperforming teachers to other government schools. This provider was the only one whose funding was not linked to the number of students enrolled, and whose contract did not forbid direct dismissal of teachers. These results suggest that using the private sector to improve government services in fragile states is promising, but also highlight the importance of procurement rules and contracting details in aligning public and private interests.

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February 06, 2018

We report results of a randomized control trial in which parents of primary school leavers were encouraged to open a convenient bank account operated over a mobile money platform. A lock savings account (LSA) was randomly promoted to half the treatment group. Treatment boosted account take-up by 25 percentage points. Intent-to-treat estimates show that being offered either account increased savings on the mobile phone. Total financial savings increased by 3-4 times, suggesting access to the mobile bank account crowded in other forms of savings. High school enrollment was 5-6 percentage points higher – representing a one third increase for compliers.

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January 23, 2018
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Do social networks matter for the adoption of new political communication technologies? We collect complete social network data for sixteen Ugandan villages where an innovative reporting mobile platform was recently introduced, and show robust evidence of peer effects on technology adoption. However, peer effects were not observed in all networks. We develop a formal model showing that while peer effects facilitate adoption of technologies with minimal externalities (like agricultural practices), it can be more difficult for innovations with significant positive externalities to spread through a network. Early adopters might exaggerate benefits, leading others to discount information about the technology’s value. Thus, peer effects are likely to emerge only where informal institutions support truthful communication. We show that the observable implications of our model are borne out in the data. These impediments to social diffusion might help explain the slow and varied uptake of new political communication technologies around the world.

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January 23, 2018
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its final bulletin from 2017. This bulletin features updates from our Saving for Safe Delivery study and the scale-ups of the food constraints and Catch Up projects. This bulletin also highlights IPA Zambia's dissemination events for the "Making Ghanaian Girls Great!" and "Interpersonal Communication to Encourage Use of Female Condoms in Zambia" studies.

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January 16, 2018
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Improving learning outcomes is a key policy priority in Ghana. To ensure that well-intentioned policy goals translate into improved learning outcomes, decision-makers are eager to: (1) evaluate the success of education programs through rigorous research; and (2) build sector-wide frameworks of accountability through improved monitoring and feedback mechanisms. Both forms of evidence are necessary for a strong education system.

Evidence Day, a part of the Ghana Ministry of Education's Education Week, will bring together policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to: a) share rigorous evidence about improving accountability and learning outcomes in education, in Ghana and internationally; b) identify ways in which evidence from evaluations can be used for better decision- making; and c) share monitoring and evaluation tools that can inform a framework of accountability for Ghana’s education sector.

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January 12, 2018
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Improving learning outcomes is a key policy priority in Ghana. To ensure that well-intentioned policy goals translate into improved learning outcomes, decision-makers are eager to: (1) evaluate the success of education programs through rigorous research; and (2) build sector-wide frameworks of accountability through improved monitoring and feedback mechanisms. Both forms of evidence are necessary for a strong education system.

The Ministry of Education is therefore calling for proposals for presentations on research relating to the aforementioned topics. Authors of accepted proposals may be invited to present their work at the Ghana education evidence summit scheduled to take place in July 2018.

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January 12, 2018

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