Over a billion people worldwide, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, lack electricity, and mainly rely on kerosene lanterns for light. Recently, prices for solar lanterns have been dropping and they may help supply clean, affordable lighting and phone charging to those who are not connected to the electric grid. Yet little rigorous evidence is available on how this new technology is being adopted and used and how it affects people’s lives.

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Teacher evaluation

Professional advancement often depends on subjective performance reviews, especially in developing countries where objective data on performance may not be available. But subjective reviews may be susceptible to personal biases based on characteristics like gender. To better understand this in the education sector in Ghana, researchers compared both principals’ reviews and teacher self-assessments of effectiveness to an objective measure:  increases in student test scores.

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Vocational education programs are a popular strategy aimed at improving labor market outcomes for youth, but there is mixed evidence about their actual benefits. Researchers evaluated the impact of admission to one of Mongolia’s formal vocational training programs on students’ educational attainment, employment, and earnings. Admission led to higher educational attainment and employment for applicants, especially for women, and increased earnings for women.

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Evidence suggests that socio-emotional skills, such as empathy and emotional regulation, play an important role in life outcomes, but little evidence exists on the impact of teaching these skills to very young children. In Colombia, researchers are evaluating how an early childhood curriculum with a socio-emotional focus impacts children’s competencies in empathy, inclusion, compassion, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, emotional regulation, generosity, and advocating and car

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The transition from school to the labor market is a crucial step in the life of young people. Yet youth unemployment is much higher than that of adults in many countries around the world, including Rwanda. Challenges include a mismatch in skills paired with difficulties for young job seekers to signal their motivation and productivity to potential employers.

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The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated social and economic downturn are undermining children's educational and developmental outcomes, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Leveraging an on-going longitudinal study, researchers in Ghana conducted phone surveys and other research activities to measure the pandemic’s repercussions on children’s education and broader developmental outcomes.

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As early childhood is an extremely important period for long-term cognitive and non-cognitive development, incorporating promising pedagogical practices in preschools may be an effective way to improve learning outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. In Peru, researchers evaluated the impact of a tailored inquiry- and problem-based learning approach on preschoolers’ performance in math.

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The Covid-19 pandemic led to unprecedented extended school closures around the globe. Ghana’s schools were closed from March 2020 through January 2021. Remote learning was introduced to ensure children continue learning while schools were closed. Equitable access to education is difficult to maintain during remote learning and may increase inequalities by child gender and household backgrounds.

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A child is given deworming medicine in Kenya

Intestinal helminths—including hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, and schistosomiasis—infect more than one in four people worldwide. Researchers evaluated the short-run impacts of a mass school-based deworming program in western Kenya, and found that deworming substantially improved health and school participation of treated children, as well as of untreated children in treatment schools and children in neighboring schools.

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Ghana, like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, has greatly expanded access to primary school in the last two decades, but very few children meet academic standards for their grade.

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Household food security, defined as stable access to sufficient and nutritious food, is critical in the early years to meet a child’s developmental needs.

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During the last few decades, there has been an increase in the number of children raised by their grandparents in the Northern Triangle in Central America—Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—in response to family crises, poverty, disease epidemics, and migration. Many of these children are facing emotional and behavioral problems, complete fewer years of schooling, and have more problems related to school and learning.

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Public-private partnerships to provide education in low-income countries are common, yet controversial. In Liberia, researchers worked with IPA, the Ministry of Education, and a set of eight private operators to conduct a randomized evaluation that measured the impact of 93 partnership schools—free public schools with management outsourced to private operators.

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In recent years, education systems in Latin America have significantly increased coverage for children in primary school. However, challenges related to early childhood education remain. In Uruguay, student absenteeism at preschool is high in comparison to primary school, and this may be due in part to parents undervaluing preschool education.

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Early educational experiences have been found to have a positive effect on students’ choice of math and science courses in later learning as well as their career aspirations. In Colombia, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to test the impact of an interactive multimedia preschool program on the math and science skills of children and the gender and racial stereotypes and beliefs of children, educators, and parents.

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