NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

Alejandro J. Ganimian, Richard J. Murnane

NBER Working Paper No. 20284
Issued in July 2014
NBER Program(s):   ED

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.

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This paper was revised on February 9, 2016

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20284

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