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BRIEF May 19, 2021

Bangladesh: Improving Education through Bureaucrat Autonomy in Bangladesh


In many low-income countries, learning outcomes remain low despite increases in government spending on education. Financial incentives for students, teachers, and schools are often considered potential solutions for improving learning within classrooms, but government officials also play a key role in setting education policies.  One question is how this group can be encouraged to improve educational quality more effectively. Can increasing the decision-making autonomy of government officials who are responsible for schools lead to better learning outcomes? Can providing them with information on evidence-based approaches from other countries be helpful? This evaluation varies the autonomy of officials by rewarding them either for learning outcomes in general or rewarding them for taking specific actions that are thought to promote learning. It also will provide officials with information on well-tested educational programs from the scientific literature and provide them with incentives for introducing similar approaches. The final outcome of interest will be student scores on an annual national exam. 

Study title:Improving Education through Bureaucrat Autonomy in Bangladesh.
Research question:Is it better to incentivize improvement in student learning directly or the adoption of evidence-based practices? 
Policy problem:Lack of autonomy and incentives to exert effort or take risks may stymy efficiency and the adoption of new practices by bureaucrats. 
Evaluation design:Treatment 1 Officials will be paid a bonus of two month’s salary to improve average test scores of students in their jurisdiction beyond a certain threshold.
Treatment 2 Officials receive the same final incentives as in Treatment 1 and will attend training sessions where they will receive a toolkit describing evidence-based interventions for improving educational outcomes. They will also receive follow-up phone calls as a reminder of the toolkit contents and encouragement to adopt the evidence-based interventions.
Treatment 3 Official attend the same training described in Treatment 2 and receive the same follow-up calls. They receive financial incentives to implement interventions described in the toolkit.
Control Officials in this group receive neither the toolkit nor any financial incentives.
Data sources:Primary and administrative data on annual test scores from secondary schools, administrative data on new policies introduced and effort towards implementing those new policies. 
Researchers:Mushfiq MobarakJaya WenMohammed Ashraful HaquePaula López-Pena