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Figure 2. Share of teachers with a higher degree by school type.

Unnatural Selection: The (Under) Performance of Elite Public Secondary Schools

Politicians often claim elite schools are vehicles for social mobility. We look at the evidence on effects on the kids who attend elite schools—and on the kids who don’t—to explore whether they live up to their hype. We suggest they produce at best a small bump in learning outcomes, but at a high cost (including to the children who don’t get in) and without doing a particularly good job of targeting the poor. We then consider what this means for policymakers in developing countries planning to rapidly scale up provision of secondary education.

Scatter plot showing expected years of school vs. harmonized test scores.

Does Education Need a QALY and Is LAYS It?

The ‘Learning Adjusted Year of Schooling’ (LAYS) concept, introduced last year by the World Bank, seeks to combine access and learning outcomes into a single measure, allowing funders to compare directly across different kinds of interventions. We like the idea and applaud innovation in measurement, but think LAYS still has some way to go before it’s really ready to be used as a robust measure by funders.

Line chart comparing TCF and other private schools in India on exam scores

Unchained Melody: The Role of Private School Chains in Developing Countries

A recent report by the Center for Universal Education at Brookings suggests that private school chains may prove to be valuable supplements to public education. But donors looking for scale should think twice before placing all bets on private school chains. The vast majority of private schools are not part of a chain. They’re run by individual proprietors, otherwise known as “mom n’ pop shops.”

Want More Spending on Education? Give Kids the Vote

The global education community has been calling on poor countries to increase their spending on education for years now, to little avail. Instead of repeatedly making the case for how important education is, or calling for poliltical will, a smarter approach could be to directly address the political economy of education spending.

Countries with a centralized admissions system at the tertiary level, from a paper by Christopher Neilson (2019)

How an Algorithm Can Make School Choice Fairer

Better school choice won’t create better schools by itself, but it can save time for everyone involved and make a system fairer that is critical for the life chances of millions. That’s a choice worth making.

Literacy of Adults in Developing Countries: New Data from a Skills Survey

Recently, Lant Prichett blogged about the latest round of the OECD international assessment of adult skills (PIAAC), which included for the first time measures for Jakarta, showing the dismally low levels of skills even in the capital city of a typical middle income country like Indonesia. This prompted me to look at the World Bank’s new skill survey of working age adults in urban areas of developing countries (STEP) that includes a literacy assessment calibrated to the same scale as PIAAC, thus allowing for comparisons. Two striking findings emerge.

Why School Systems Matter, and How We Can Fix Them

Accountability in school systems is essential to deliver better learning and accelerate progress in developing countries. What is still really lacking—and what RISE is working towards—is a coherent and complete analytical framework capturing the key elements of a system of school accountability that can explain the divergent experiences we have seen in school reform.

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