Evidence suggests that pay-for-performance (P4P) contracts can elicit greater effort from civil servants when designed well, but does advertising performance pay affect who applies for these public sector jobs?

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Educate!

In sub-Saharan Africa, where youth unemployment rates are very high, teaching students the skills required to be successful entrepreneurs or to compete in the formal labor market has the potential to reduce youth unemployment, drive economic growth, and reduce poverty. Whether such skills – particularly soft skills – can be taught, however, is an open question. In Uganda, researchers partnered with Educate!

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In Sub-Saharan Africa, wage job opportunities are limited, and a vast majority of young people are engaged in low-productive work. Many governments support formal apprenticeship programs to help youth find suitable employment, but there is limited evidence on the direct and indirect effects of these public interventions.

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Improving education quality in low-income countries is a top priority for the global human development agenda, with governments and donors spending over a hundred billion dollars annually on education. Researchers evaluated the impact of providing schools with an unconditional cash grant, a teacher incentive program, or both on student learning. The cash grant had no impact on student learning, while the teacher incentive program had mixed results.

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Youth unemployment and underemployment are pressing policy challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa and job-training programs have not proven to be effective (or cost-effective) at improving youth labor market outcomes. In Ghana, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to estimate the impact of a government program that placed young people in traditional apprenticeships and matched them with training providers.

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A student uses the tablet program.

One reason children from disadvantaged backgrounds receive less schooling and join the labor force at younger ages with fewer skills may be that they and their families lack crucial information needed to make the right long run investment decisions regarding their human capital. In Peru, IPA and J-PAL worked with researchers and the Ministry of Education to evaluate at scale two low-cost ways of providing relevant information to help students and their families make more informed decisions.

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Though Zambia has made significant progress in increasing access to education, allocation of resources within the system remains a challenge. This study describes the distribution of teachers across public primary schools in Zambia, examines the underlying administrative challenges and geographic factors linked to the allocation of teachers, and offers policy recommendations in order to create a more equitable teacher distribution, which may also be more efficient.

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Programs that allow citizens to contact their government representatives may help to improve the delivery of basic services, such as resources in schools and health clinics, in low-income countries. However, citizen participation in these programs is often low.

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Basic “pre-math” skills in young children have been shown to be important for developing later mathematics competency.1 In Costa Rica, researchers are evaluating the impact of a technology-based preschool math and coding program on the math and programming skills of preschool-aged children.

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Basic “pre-math” skills in young children have been shown to be important for developing later mathematics competency. In Panama, math scores are lower than other Latin American countries and there are large performance gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous areas. Researchers are evaluating the impact of bilingual and intercultural preschool math curricula on the math skills of preschool-aged children.

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Around the world, studies show that children’s health and cognitive development tend to be higher when parents have more education. However, it is unclear whether education itself causes improved child health, or if other factors account for this relationship.

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As in many other developing countries, children under the age of five in rural Ghana often fail to reach their developmental potential. Researchers partnered with the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the organization Lively Minds to evaluate the impact of a low-cost, play-based learning program on early childhood cognitive development.

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In Latin America, student achievement in science is lower than the global average. A promising method to improve educational quality in rural, low-resource areas is “interactive radio instruction” (IRI), a standardized curriculum of recorded lessons that solicit student participation. Building on the positive results of other IRI programs, researchers in Paraguay are evaluating the learning effects of an IRI curriculum for early childhood science education.   

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In sub-Saharan Africa, young girls drop out of school at higher rates than boys. A large portion of drop outs occur between primary and secondary school, when families in most countries have to start paying fees for their children to continue attending school. In Zambia, researchers designed and evaluated the impact of a training that taught adolescent girls non-cognitive skills to negotiate health and educational decisions with authority figures in their lives.

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Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, early literacy remains very low, and existing interventions have not proven to be cost-effective.1 Children from rural areas are particularly at risk for below-average literacy skills due to a lack of age-appropriate literary resources, low rates of caregiver literacy, and low levels of teacher support.

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