The Negative Consequences of Overambitious Curricula in Developing Countries

58 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2012 Last revised: 21 Mar 2013

See all articles by Lant Pritchett

Lant Pritchett

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); Center for Global Development

Amanda Beatty

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 1, 2012

Abstract

Learning profiles that track changes in student skills per year of schooling often find shockingly low learning gains. Using data from three recent studies in South Asia and Africa, we show that a majority of students spend years of instruction with no progress on basics. We argue shallow learning profiles are in part the result of curricular paces moving much faster than the pace of learning. To demonstrate the consequences of a gap between the curriculum and student mastery, we construct a simple, formal model, which portrays learning as the result of a match between student skill and instructional levels, rather than the standard (if implicit) assumption that all children learn the same from the same instruction. A simulation shows that two countries with exactly the same potential learning could have massively divergent learning outcomes, just because of a gap between curricular and actual pace — and the country which goes faster has much lower cumulative learning. We also show that our simple simulation model of curricular gaps can replicate existing experimental findings, many of which are otherwise puzzling. Paradoxically, learning could go faster if curricula and teachers were to slow down.

JEL Classification: I21, I25, O15

Suggested Citation

Pritchett, Lant and Beatty, Amanda, The Negative Consequences of Overambitious Curricula in Developing Countries (April 1, 2012). Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 293; HKS Working Paper No. RWP12-035. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2102726 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2102726

Lant Pritchett (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-4562 (Phone)
617-496-2554 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~lpritch/

Center for Global Development

2055 L St. NW
5th floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Amanda Beatty

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. ( email )

P.O. Box 2393
Princeton, NJ 08543-2393
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
275
Abstract Views
1,654
rank
78,597
PlumX Metrics