Improving Education in the Developing World: What Have We Learned from Randomized Evaluations?

Posted: 4 Jun 2010

See all articles by Michael Kremer

Michael Kremer

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Center for Global Development; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Alaka Holla

World Bank; Brown University; Innovations for Poverty Action

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Date Written: January 2009

Abstract

Across a range of contexts, reductions in education costs and provision of subsidies can boost school participation, often dramatically. Decisions to attend school seem subject to peer effects and time-inconsistent preferences. Merit scholarships, school health programs, and information about returns to education can all cost-effectively spur school participation. However, distortions in education systems, such as weak teacher incentives and elite-oriented curricula, undermine learning in school and much of the impact of increasing existing educational spending. Pedagogical innovations designed to address these distortions (such as technology-assisted instruction, remedial education, and tracking by achievement) can raise test scores at a low cost. Merely informing parents about school conditions seems insufficient to improve teacher incentives, and evidence on merit pay is mixed, but hiring teachers locally on short-term contracts can save money and improve educational outcomes. School vouchers can cost-effectively increase both school participation and learning.

Suggested Citation

Kremer, Michael R. and Holla, Alaka, Improving Education in the Developing World: What Have We Learned from Randomized Evaluations? (January 2009). Annual Review of Economics, Vol. 1, pp. 513-545, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1598704 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.economics.050708.143323

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