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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 qual...
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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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Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture currently operates an agricultural extension agency program to help teach smallholder farmers the most current farming techniques, but there are not enough agents to provide a constant presence in local communities. As part of the Disseminating Innovative Resources and Technologies to Smallholder Farmers (DIRTS) project, researchers collaborated with the ministry to test a new community agricultural extension agent program, which selected and trained local agents to supplement the existing MOFA agents and provide more frequent teaching and support. Key Findings* After three years: Community extension agents successfully increased local farmers’ knowledge and improved their practices. Delivering specific information about a practice close to the time when the practice should be adopted may be an important component of a successful program. However, farmers’ improved knowledge and implementation of best practices did not ultimately translate into...
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May 01, 2018
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Improved seeds varieties can generate significantly higher agricultural yields for farmers, but recent data indicates that only 20 percent of farmers in northern Ghana use improved seeds. This study, known as the Testing Agricultural Technologies (TAT) project, compared yields and profits of several seed varieties and looked at farmer purchasing decisions to understand the performance and adoption of seed varieties in northern Ghana. Key Findings* Over the course of one growing season: The seed comparison found a wide variety in yields between seeds, with farmers who grew the foreign hybrid seed, Adikanfo, on average yielding more than double that yielded from the local hybrid seed, Mamaba. Contrary to expectations, the commonly-used local seed, Obaatanpa, outperformed the local hybrid seed, Mamaba. The study suggests a farmer cultivating one hectare of land who switched from Obaatanpa to Adikanfo would harvest about 1.8 tons more maize, translating into an increase in profit of more t...
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May 01, 2018
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In Ghana, and many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, farmers invest little in inputs, such as improved seed, fertilizer, and other chemicals to improve their yields. One reason for this may be risk associated with factors out of their control, such as weather. As part of the “Disseminating Innovative Resources and Technologies to Smallholder Farmers” project, researchers partnered with a weather forecasting firm to test the impact of providing daily short-term weather forecasts by SMS. Key Findings After 1 year: Farmers who received the forecasts, as well as farmers living nearby, used this information to change their behavior, timing planting and chemical application for days when light rain was forecast. However, there was no discernable impact of the service on farmers’ overall profits. Overall, the results suggest that forecasts are inexpensive and effective at changing farmer behavior, but they were not sufficient to increase overall profits alone.
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May 01, 2018
English
Improved seeds varieties can generate significantly higher agricultural yields for farmers, but recent data indicates that only 20 percent of farmers in northern Ghana use improved seeds. This study, known as the Testing Agricultural Technologies (TAT) project, compared yields and profits of several seed varieties and looked at farmer purchasing decisions to understand the performance and adoption of seed varieties in northern Ghana.
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May 01, 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....
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April 28, 2018
Large and regular seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets appear to offer African farmers substantial inter-temporal arbitrage opportunities, but these opportunities remain largely unexploited: small-scale farmers are commonly observed to "sell low and buy high" rather than the reverse. In a field experiment in Kenya, we show that credit market imperfections limit farmers' abilities to move grain inter-temporally. Providing timely access to credit allows farmers to buy at lower prices and sell at higher prices, increasing farm revenues and generating a return on investment of 28%. To understand general equilibrium effects of these changes in behavior, we vary the density of loan offers across locations. We document significant effects of the credit intervention on seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets, and show that these GE effects shape individual level profitability estimates. In contrast to existing experimental work, the results indicate a setting in which...
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April 24, 2018
We organized business associations for the owner-managers of young Chinese firms to study the effect of business networks on firm performance. We randomized 2,820 firms into small groups whose managers held monthly meetings for one year, and into a “no-meetings” control group. We find the following. (i) The meetings increased firm revenue by 8.1%, and also significantly increased profit, factors, inputs, the number of partners, borrowing, and a management score. (ii) These effects persisted one year after the conclusion of the meetings. (iii) Firms randomized to have better peers exhibited higher growth. We exploit additional interventions to document concrete channels. (iv) Managers shared exogenous business-relevant information, particularly when they were not competitors, showing that the meetings facilitated learning from peers. (v) Managers created more business partnerships in the regular than in other one-time meetings, showing that the meetings improved supplier-client matching...
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April 18, 2018
Several field experiments find positive returns to grants for male and not female microentrepreneurs. But, these analyses largely overlook that male and female micro-entrepreneurs often belong to the same household. Using data from randomized trials in India, Sri Lanka and Ghana, we show that the gender gap in microenterprise performance is not due to a gap in aptitude. Instead, low average returns of female-run enterprises are observed because women’s capital is invested into their husbands’ enterprises rather than their own. When women are the sole household enterprise operator, capital shocks lead to large increases in profits. Household-level income gains are equivalent regardless of the grant or loan recipient’s gender.
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April 18, 2018
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A randomized control trial with 432 small and medium enterprises in Mexico shows positive impact of access to 1 year of management consulting services on total factor productivity and return on assets. Owners also had an increase in “entrepreneurial spirit” (an index that measures entrepreneurial confidence and goal setting). Using Mexican social security data, we find a persistent large increase (about 50 percent) in the number of employees and total wage bill even 5 years after the program. We document large heterogeneity in the specific managerial practices that improved as a result of the consulting, with the most prominent being marketing, financial accounting, and longterm business planning.
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April 01, 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 g...
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March 30, 2018
We present findings from a pilot study exploring whether and how existing ties between urban migrants and rural farmers may be used to provide the latter improved access to formal insurance. Urban migrants in Ouagadougou (the capital of Burkina Faso) originating from nearby villages were offered, at the prevailing market price, a rainfall index insurance product that can potentially protect their rural relatives from adverse weather shocks. The product had an uptake of 22% during the two-week subscription window. Uptake rates were higher by 17-22 ppts among urban migrants who were randomly offered an insurance policy that would make pay-outs directly to the intended beneficiary rather than the subscriber. We argue that rainfall index insurance can complement informal risk-sharing networks by mitigating problems of informational asymmetry and self-control issues.
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March 20, 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
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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. Key Findings: 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. These positive effects persisted one year later, after the program ended. The teacher-training and coaching improved children’s school readiness, including their early literacy, early numeracy, 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.  The pa...
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February 23, 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...
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February 20, 2018
To test the causal impact of religiosity, we conducted a randomized evaluation of an evangelical Protestant Christian values and theology education program that consisted of 15 weekly half-hour sessions. We analyze outcomes for 6,276 ultra-poor Filipino households six months after the program ended. We find significant increases in religiosity and income, no significant changes in total labor supply, assets, consumption, food security, or life satisfaction, and a significant decrease in perceived relative economic status. Exploratory analysis suggests the program may have improved hygienic practices and increased household discord, and that the income treatment effect may operate through increasing grit.
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February 19, 2018
Many farmers in the developing world lack access to effective savings and storage devices. Such devices might be particularly valuable for farmers since income is received as a lump sum at harvest but expenditures are incurred throughout the year, and because grain prices are low at harvest but rise over the year. We experimentally provided two saving schemes to 132 ROSCAs in Kenya, one designed around communally storing maize and the other around saving cash for inputs. About 56% of respondents took up the products. Respondents in the maize storage intervention were 23 percentage points more likely to store maize (on a base of 69%), 37 percentage points more likely to sell maize (on a base of 36%) and (conditional on selling) sold later and at higher prices. We find no effects of the individual input savings intervention on input usage, likely because baseline input adoption was higher than expected. Published version available here. 
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February 18, 2018

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