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Many Children Left Behind? Textbooks and Test Scores in Kenya


  • Michael Kremer
  • Paul Glewwe
  • Sylvie Moulin


A randomized evaluation suggests that a program which provided official textbooks to randomly selected rural Kenyan primary schools did not increase test scores for the average student. In contrast, the previous literature suggests that textbook provision has a large impact on test scores. Disaggregating the results by students’ initial academic achievement suggests a potential explanation for the lack of an overall impact. Textbooks increased scores for students with high initial academic achievement and increased the probability that the students who had made it to the selective final year of primary school would go on to secondary school. However, students with weaker academic backgrounds did not benefit from the textbooks. Many pupils could not read the textbooks, which are written in English, most students’ third language. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that the Kenyan education system and curricular materials are oriented to the academically strongest students rather than to typical students. More generally, many students may be left behind in societies that combine 1) a centralized, unified education system; 2) the heterogeneity in student preparation associated with rapid expansion of education; and 3) disproportionate elite power.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Kremer & Paul Glewwe & Sylvie Moulin, 2007. "Many Children Left Behind? Textbooks and Test Scores in Kenya," CID Working Papers 149, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cid:wpfacu:149

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Abhijit Banerjee & Shawn Cole & Esther Duflo & Leigh Linden, 2005. "Remedying education: Evidence from two randomized experiments in india," Framed Field Experiments 00122, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Shawn Cole & Esther Duflo & Leigh Linden, 2007. "Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1235-1264.
    3. Hanushek, Eric A, 1995. "Interpreting Recent Research on Schooling in Developing Countries," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 10(2), pages 227-246, August.
    4. Pritchett, Lant & Filmer, Deon, 1999. "What education production functions really show: a positive theory of education expenditures," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 223-239, April.
    5. Hanushek, Eric A, 1986. "The Economics of Schooling: Production and Efficiency in Public Schools," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 1141-1177, September.
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    More about this item


    Education; Economic Development; Political Economy; Randomized Evaluation; Student Academic Performance; Textbooks; Kenya;

    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
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments


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