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Improving Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: Lessons from Rigorous Impact Evaluations

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  • Alejandro J. Ganimian
  • Richard J. Murnane

Abstract

This paper reviews and interprets the evidence from 223 rigorous impact evaluations of educational initiatives conducted in 56 low- and middle-income countries. We consider for inclusion in our review all studies in recent syntheses, which have reached seemingly conflicting conclusions about which interventions improve educational outcomes. We group interventions based on their theory of action. We derive four lessons from the studies we review. First, reducing the costs of going to school and expanding schooling options increase attendance and attainment, but do not consistently increase student achievement. Second, providing information about school quality, developmentally appropriate parenting practices, and the economic returns to schooling affects the actions of parents and the achievement of children and adolescents. Third, more or better resources improve student achievement only if they result in changes in children’s daily experiences at school. Finally, well-designed incentives increase teacher effort and student achievement from very low levels, but low-skilled teachers need specific guidance to reach minimally acceptable levels of instruction.

Suggested Citation

  • Alejandro J. Ganimian & Richard J. Murnane, 2014. "Improving Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: Lessons from Rigorous Impact Evaluations," NBER Working Papers 20284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20284
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    Cited by:

    1. Karen Macours & Renos Vakis, 2017. "Sustaining Impacts When Transfers End: Women Leaders, Aspirations, and Investments in Children," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Poverty Traps National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Amaro Da Costa Luz Carneiro,Pedro Manuel & Koussihouede,Oswald & Lahire,Nathalie & Meghir,Costas & Mommaerts,Corina, 2016. "School grants and education quality : experimental evidence from Senegal," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7624, The World Bank.
    3. Julia A. Barde & Juliana Walkiewicz, 2014. "Access to Piped Water and Human Capital Formation - Evidence from Brazilian Primary Schools," Discussion Paper Series 28, Department of International Economic Policy, University of Freiburg, revised Jul 2014.
    4. Eiji Koazuka, 2018. "Enlightening Communities and Parents for Improving Student Learning Evidence from Randomized Experiment in Niger," Working Papers 166, JICA Research Institute.
    5. Blimpo, Moussa P. & Gajigo, Ousman & Pugatch, Todd, 2015. "Financial Constraints and Girls' Secondary Education: Evidence from School Fee Elimination in The Gambia," IZA Discussion Papers 9129, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. 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.
    7. Marina Bassi & Costas Meghir & Ana Reynoso, 2016. "Education Quality and Teaching Practices," NBER Working Papers 22719, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    9. Paul Rodríguez-Lesmes & José D. Trujillo & Daniel Valderrama, 2015. "Are Public Libraries Improving Quality of Education? When the Provision of Public Goods is not Enough," REVISTA DESARROLLO Y SOCIEDAD, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE, December.
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    20. Clair Null & Clemencia Cosentino & Swetha Sridharan & Laura Meyer, "undated". "Policies and Programs to Improve Secondary Education in Developing Countries: A Review of the Evidence," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 516e420e637c4851b15e6a3f6, Mathematica Policy Research.
    21. Virgi Sari, 2018. "Educational assistance and education quality in Indonesia: The role of decentralization," WIDER Working Paper Series 037, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
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    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

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