What should be considered when developing a literacy intervention that asks teachers to implement new instructional methods? How can this be achieved with minimal support within existing policy? We argue that two broad sets of considerations must be made in designing such an intervention. First, the intervention must be effective by bridging the gap between current teacher practice and the scientific literature on effective instruction. This broad consideration is detailed with 10 design recommendations. Second, the intervention must be amenable to being scaled-up and mainstreamed as part of government policy. This involves being (i) simple and replicable; (ii) well received by teachers; and (iii) cost effective. The paper describes how these factors were considered in the design of a literacy intervention in government primary schools in coastal Kenya. It also includes reactions from teachers about the intervention and their change in knowledge.
This paper tests how migrants’ willingness to remit changes when given the ability to direct remittances to educational purposes using different forms of commitment. Variants of a dictator game in a lab-in-the-field experiment with Filipino migrants in Rome are used to examine remitting behavior under varying degrees of commitment. These range from the soft commitment of simply labeling remittances as being for education, to the hard commitment of having funds directly paid to a school and the student’s educational performance monitored. We find that the introduction of simple labeling for education raises remittances by more than 15%. Adding the ability to directly send this funding to the school adds only a further 2.2%. We randomly vary the information asymmetry between migrants and their most closely connected household, but find no significant change in the remittance response to these forms of commitment as information varies. Behavior in these games is then shown to be predictive of take-up of a new financial product called EduPay, designed to allow migrants to directly pay remittances to schools in the Philippines. We find this take-up is largely driven by a response to the ability to label remittances for education, rather than to the hard commitment feature of directly paying schools.
Some education policymakers focus on bringing down pupil–teacher ratios. Others argue that resources will have limited impact without systematic reforms to education governance, teacher incentives, and pedagogy. We examine a program under which school committees at randomly selected Kenyan schools were funded to hire an additional teacher on an annual contract renewable conditional on performance, outside normal Ministry of Education civil-service channels, at one-quarter normal compensation levels. For students randomly assigned to stay with existing classes, test scores did not increase significantly, despite a reduction in class size from 82 to 44 on average. In contrast, scores increased for students assigned to be taught by locally-hired contract teachers. One reason may be that contract teachers had low absence rates, while centrally-hired civil-service teachers in schools randomly assigned contract teachers endogenously reduced their effort. Civil-service teachers also captured rents for their families, with approximately 1/3 of contract teacher positions going to relatives of existing teachers. A governance program that empowered parents within school committees reduced both forms of capture. The best contract teachers obtained civil service jobs over time, and we estimate large potential dynamic benefits from supplementing a civil service system with locally-hired contract teachers brought in on a probationary basis and granted tenure conditional on performance.
We use a suite of economic experiments to study social preferences governing the distribution of earned and unearned income in rural villages in western Kenya. Our experiments vary the extent to which income depends on individual effort while holding other aspects of the economic environment constant. Results suggest that, in rural villages, the relative weight placed on others does not depend on the extent to which those individual increased the total surplus through their own effort. However, more educated subjects and those drawn from villages closer to the road do reward others for their effort; their allocation decisions are consistent with models of reciprocity.
We combine data from a randomized evaluation and a laboratory experiment to measure the causal impact of human capital on respect for earned property rights, a component of social preferences with important implications for economic growth and development. We find that higher academic achievement reduces the willingness of young Kenyan women to appropriate others’ labor income, and shifts players toward a 50-50 split norm in a modified dictator game. This study demonstrates that education may have long-run impacts on social preferences, norms and institutions beyond the human capital directly produced.
In Malawi, 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 research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Malawian poor.
Commitment devices offer an opportunity to restrict future choices. However, if severe restrictions deter participation, weaker restrictions may be a more effective means of changing behavior. We test this using a school-based commitment savings device for educational expenses in Uganda. We compare an account fully-committed to educational expenses to an account in which savings are available for cash withdrawal but intended for educational expenses. The weaker commitment generates increased savings in the program accounts and when combined with a parent outreach program, higher expenditures on educational supplies. It also increases scores on an exam covering language and math skills by 0.11 standard deviations. We find no effect for the fully-committed account, and we find no effect for either account on attendance, enrollment, or non-cognitive skills.
Evidence on the effectiveness of financial education and formal savings account access is lacking, particularly for youth. We randomly assign 250 youth clubs to receive either financial education, access to a cheap group account, or both. The financial education treatments increase financial literacy; the account-only treatment does not. Administrative data shows the education plus account treatment increases bank savings relative to account-only. But survey-measured total savings shows roughly equal increases across all treatment arms. Earned income also increases in all treatment arms. We find little evidence that education and account access are strong complements, and some evidence they are substitutes.
In Uganda, 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 Ugandan poor.
In Kenya, 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 research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Kenyan poor.
In Peru, 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 research below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Peruvian poor.
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.