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

93 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2014

See all articles by Richard J. Murnane

Richard J. Murnane

Harvard University - Harvard Graduate School of Education; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Alejandro Ganimian

Harvard University

Date Written: July 2014

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

Murnane, Richard J. and Ganimian, Alejandro, Improving Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: Lessons from Rigorous Impact Evaluations (July 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20284, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2471177

Richard J. Murnane (Contact Author)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Alejandro Ganimian

Harvard University

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