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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.


Telling officials the study was an RCT had no effect on updating beliefs

A Poll of Education Officials in 35 Countries: Experiments Suggest Policymakers Don’t Care Much About Experiments

Researchers want their work to have an impact in the real world. For this to happen, policymakers need to be able to access their research and to be convinced that it is sufficiently credible and relevant to change their minds and inform policy. Understanding what kind of research and evidence convince policymakers to update their beliefs has been the subject of increasing study in recent years. Last year we conducted a survey of over 900 senior officials in Ministries of Education (or related government agencies) in 35 low- and middle-income countries. We surveyed them to  understand how and by whom their priorities and perceptions are influenced, as well as to elicit their priorities for education policy and spending in their countries  and their views on aid donors.

Aid recipients aren’t worried about specific consequences of fragmentation

A Poll of Education Officials in 35 Countries: Foreign Aid Recipients Say Nice Things About Aid Donors

Last year we conducted a survey of over 900 senior officials (mostly Directors) in Ministries of Education or related government agencies, from 35 low- and middle-income countries. We surveyed them to get their opinions on the state of education aid, as well as their perceptions of and priorities for education more broadly. Here, we present four key findings about their views on global aid donors.

An image of a classroom.

A Poll of Education Officials in 35 Countries: Three Reasons the Idea of a “Learning Crisis” Isn’t Getting Traction

With half of kids in low- and middle-income countries unable to read a simple story by the end of primary school, international organizations and foreign aid donors have declared a “global learning crisis.”

The crisis framing has coincided with a shift in policy messaging from many big international donors in the education sector. To oversimplify a bit, education access is out, school quality is in. The World Bank, UNICEF, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Gates Foundation all promote greater emphasis on “foundational skills,” implying a renewed focus on basic literacy and numeracy in primary school, measured through an increased use of standardized testing.

A man on the phone wearing a mask

Tech Plus Teachers: One-on-one Phone Tutorials Didn’t Help Kids Learn During School Closures in Sierra Leone

When schools in Sierra Leone closed last March, the government was more ready than many to respond. We designed a randomised control trial which assigned 4,399 students from 25 government primary schools to receive—in addition to the standard access to the government’s broadcast that all students received—either reminders to tune in or reminders and weekly phone tutorials with teachers.

Figure showing men are more likely to say women shouldnt work outside the home than women are

Promoting Gender Equality in Pakistan Means Tackling Both Real and Misperceived Gender Norms

The education gaps that are closing between boys and girls in many countries persist in Pakistan. Our large new household survey on the factors associated with differences in gender norms sheds light on what policymakers can do in the post-COVID world to address the gender gap and improve opportunities for girls. Here are four things we learnt from the survey results.

What Happened to Dropout Rates after COVID-19 School Closures in Ghana?

Like most countries across the world, Ghana closed schools for long stretches of 2020. In this blog, we present findings from a nationally representative household survey carried out in March 2021 on the effects of the pandemic on education in the country.

An image of school children learning on a tablet.

A Symposium on Girin Beeharry’s Manifesto for Global Education

Earlier this year, Girin Beeharry stepped down as the inaugural director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global education program. But he’s not going quietly.  His recent essay, “The Pathway to Progress on SDG 4,” is essentially a manifesto for international actors in the education sector.  In it, Girin diagnoses deep failures in the sector he’s helped shape in recent years, and lays out his vision for what needs to change to get back on track toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of quality education for all (SDG4).