Evidence to Policy, a monthly note series on learning what works, highlights studies that evaluate the impact of programs in the critical areas of human development --health, education, social protection, water and sanitation and labor. From how to best supply rural health clinics with drugs to what helps students do better in school, World Bank-supported impact evaluations provide governments and development experts with the information they need to use resources most effectively. As impact evaluations increasingly become more important to policymakers, this series offers a non-technical review of the many innovations the World Bank is supporting, and the growing number of rigorous studies analyzing the impacts of those innovations. The note series is managed by SIEF, which receives generous funding from the British government's Department for International Development and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).
Before the COVID pandemic, more than half of children in lowand middle-income countries suffered from learning poverty: they either were out of school or failed to learn to read with comprehension by age 10. At the same time, numerous studies have documented serious challenges related to the quality of education services, particularly for those serving poor students. In a country like Kenya, for example, teachers exhibit low levels of content and pedagogical knowledge. Previous research has shown that highly structured teaching guides could improve literacy, but scripted lessons are not without critics, who worry that teachers will not be able to adapt content to student’s needs. In places where teachers may be less prepared to tailor high quality lessons to their students, however, scripting may offer a way to standardize a minimum level of quality at scale.
Performance pay for teachers generates debate. Proponents argue that many school systems have low levels of accountability and advocate incentivizing teachers by linking their pay to either their own efforts or their students’ learning. Critics, however, raise concerns that performance pay attracts people to the teaching workforce who are “in it for the money” and could diminish the intrinsic motivation to teach among teachers already in classrooms. To inform the Rwandan government about its own incentive structure for teachers, researchers designed a two-year experiment in partnership with Rwandan Education Board and the Ministry of Education, with support from the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund. The evaluation was set up to separately measure the impact of performance pay on the composition of teachers attracted to the teaching force and its impact on their effort in the classroom once hired.
Early learning experiences promote child development and help children get prepared for school, providing children with a foundation for learning that can last into primary school and well beyond. Evidence suggests the positive impacts of these experiences are particularly pronounced for disadvantaged children, who often have limited access to learning materials and stimulation at home, and policymakers around the world have expanded access to preprimary education. But how much preprimary education do children need? Is one year enough, or do children reap additional benefits from two years of preschool?
In Mexico, the government runs a mobile tutor program to send recent university graduates to work in schools in the country’s most rural and marginalized communities, where teachers are typically members of the community with limited education and training. The World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) supported an evaluation to measure the impacts of the mobile tutoring program in the Chiapas region, where a high fraction of the population is poor and indigenous.
In Pakistan, a public-private partnership program to improve schooling opportunities for both boys and girls provided cash subsidies to private entrepreneurs who established and operated free, co-educational primary schools in villages in remote areas where government schools are not always available. The impact evaluation found that boys and girls in villages that were randomly assigned to program schools were more likely to be in school and that they did better on tests to measure learning than children in villages without such schools.
The World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) supported a study carried out with the Bulgaria-based Trust for Social Achievement to test whether covering the costs of preprimary education would boost enrollment and attendance.
In Brazil, policymakers from the Ceará state government worked with the World Bank and the Brazilian nongovernmental Lemann Foundation to design a program to improve secondary school teacher effectiveness. The program provided feedback to teachers on their classroom practices and gave them access to expert educational coaching through one-on-one sessions delivered via Skype. With support from the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, the World Bank team incorporated an impact evaluation into the program to test the effectiveness of the approach.
The evaluation of an educational pilot program found that giving parents information led to improved test scores, lower fees in the private schools in the village and higher primary school enrollment.
In Tunisia, an evaluation of a program to provide university students with entrepreneurship education and assistance in developing a business plan, found that the program increased self-employment in the short term. However, four years after finishing the program, these same students weren't any more likely than students who didn't take the program to be self- employed. Limited access to capital was a key challenge that many of the program's graduates said they faced.
In India, the Legatum Institute, the World Bank, the British government’s Department for International Development, the educational non-profit Azim Premji Foundation, and the government of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh worked together to evaluate alternatives for improving education and giving children more choices.
In Indonesia, researchers evaluated a project to expand access to early childhood services in the country’s poorest areas by giving communities grants for preschools and providing teacher training and facilitators to encourage use of services.
In Haiti, World Bank researchers worked with the Ministry of Education to evaluate a pilot program to use digital technology to help keep track of teachers in school and enable more effective monitoring of schools.
Giving parents information led to improved test scores, lower fees in the private schools in the village and higher primary school enrollment. The results indicate that when parents know how well their children are doing in school—and know how well other children are doing in different schools—it can spur better learning.
In Indonesia, the World Bank worked with the government to set up and evaluate alternative ways to improve parents' knowledge of and involvement in the management of money that the government gives to schools for operational costs.
A study found that when primary school children get deworming treatment, their younger siblings showed cognitive gains, perhaps because of fewer worms in the community.
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In Haiti, most primary schools aren’t government run and they charge fees. A program that gives schools vouchers to cover fees allows children to go to school for free, relieving the financial burden on families, and reduces grade repetition, an impact evaluation found.
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The Philippines is successfully using conditional cash transfers to improve health and education for the poorest families, but the program hasn't been effective at raising school enrollment for older children. Based on the evaluation, the government has increased the transfer amount for older children.
In Tanzania, an innovative conditional cash transfer program that relies on local communities to administer the payments has succeeded in helping the country’s poorest citizens. As the results of a recent impact evaluation indicate, cash transfer systems can be adapted to work well in low-income countries that don’t have a strong central government to administer them.
Power Point Summary
In Cambodia, a scale-up of early childhood development programs ran into problems, which affected the evaluation and raised important lessons for policymakers and groups working on bringing such programs to scale.
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The World Bank works with governments to develop and implement innovative methods for expanding access to education, particularly for girls, and improve school quality.
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In Colombia, researchers used administrative data to analyze the long-term impact of conditional cash transfers on schooling.
This bulletin showcases a World Bank supported study in Cambodia, where researchers set out to study the effects of scholarships on encouraging primary school students to continue their studies in lower secondary school – and whether bigger grants worked better than smaller ones. The results of the study underscore the importance impact evaluation can have for policymakers, even as researchers plan a second round of data collection to answer some important questions raised by the results. [View original Note - 2010]
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In Indonesia, the World Bank worked with the Government of Indonesia on a community grant program to boost the use of health and education services. The impact evaluation built into the program found that cash transfers to rural communities led to positive impacts on average across health and education indicators, with a strong decline in malnutrition.
To understand whether low-cost private schools can improve access to education and promote student learning, the World Bank evaluated a new public-private education partnership in Pakistan at the request of the government. Private schools receive a per-student monthly subsidy in exchange for waiving tuition and meeting testing standards. By linking the subsidy to student learning, the program aims to push schools to perform better. The evaluation found that the threat of losing the subsidy worked.
Researchers measured the relative effectiveness of a pilot program implemented by the Indonesian government to test measures to strengthen school committees and improve accountability, thereby leading to better student learning. The pilot found that the most effective way to improve student test scores was to support democratic elections for committee members and strengthen ties between the committees and local groups.
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A World Bank-supported study reviewed the impact of a public-private partnership in Colombia that places computers in public schools. The study found that students in participating schools did not show improved test scores, raising questions about the effectiveness of the program, which included teacher training in how to use the computers as teaching aids. Bad news is sometimes good news, blogged HDN Chief Economist Ariel Fiszbein, because it reminds us that “achieving results is not as simple as we sometimes seem to believe.”
This bulletin takes a look at a World Bank supported study in Andhra Pradesh, India, where our team and their counterparts set out to explore whether paying teachers bonuses based on student test scores is more effective at boosting scores than giving schools extra money for supplies or teachers. The results of the project will not end the debate over how to encourage more effective teaching. But it does offer some powerful ideas that can help inform policy in this critical area across the developing world.