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Africa’s Skill Tragedy: Does Teachers’ Lack of Knowledge Lead to Low Student Performance?

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  • Jan Bietenbeck
  • Marc Piopiunik
  • Simon Wiederhold

Abstract

We study the importance of teacher subject knowledge for student performance in Sub-Saharan Africa using unique international assessment data for sixth-grade students and their teachers. To circumvent bias due to unobserved student heterogeneity, we exploit variation within students across math and reading. Teacher subject knowledge has a modest impact on student performance. Exploiting vast cross-country differences in economic development, we find that teacher knowledge is effective only in more developed African countries. Results are robust to adding teacher fixed effects and accounting for potential sorting based on subject-specific factors.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan Bietenbeck & Marc Piopiunik & Simon Wiederhold, 2018. "Africa’s Skill Tragedy: Does Teachers’ Lack of Knowledge Lead to Low Student Performance?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 53(3), pages 553-578.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:53:y:2018:i:3:p:553-578
    Note: DOI: 10.3368/jhr.53.3.0616-8002R1
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    Cited by:

    1. Ludger Woessmann, 2016. "The Importance of School Systems: Evidence from International Differences in Student Achievement," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 3-32, Summer.
    2. Bietenbeck, Jan & Ericsson, Sanna & Wamalwa, Fredrick M., 2019. "Preschool attendance, schooling, and cognitive skills in East Africa," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C).
    3. Araujo, Maria Daniela & Heineck, Guido & Cruz-Aguayo, Yyannú, 2020. "Does Test-Based Teacher Recruitment Work in the Developing World? Experimental Evidence from Ecuador," IZA Discussion Papers 13830, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Aymo Brunetti & Konstantin Buechel & Martina Jakob & Ben Jann & Christoph Kuehnhanss & Daniel Steffen, 2020. "Teacher Content Knowledge in Developing Countries: Evidence from a Math Assessment in El Salvador," Diskussionsschriften dp2005, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft.
    5. Backhaus, Andreas, 2020. "Skills in African Labor Markets and Implications for Migration to Europe," Kiel Working Papers 2150, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    6. Bold, Tessa & Filmer, Deon & Molina, Ezequiel & Svensson, Jakob, 2018. "The Lost Human Capital: Teacher Knowledge and Student Learning in Africa," CEPR Discussion Papers 12956, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Ricardo Estrada & María Lombardi, 2020. "Skills and Selection into Teaching: Evidence from Latin America," Department of Economics Working Papers wp_gob_2020_10, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.
    8. Oscar David Marcenaro‐Gutierrez & Luis Alejandro Lopez‐Agudo, 2020. "Does Teacher Subject Knowledge Contribute to Student Academic Performance in Developing and Least Developed Countries?," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 88(3), pages 267-297, September.
    9. Rakshit, Sonali & Sahoo, Soham, 2020. "Biased Teachers and Gender Gap in Learning Outcomes: Evidence from India," GLO Discussion Paper Series 684, Global Labor Organization (GLO).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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