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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.

Photo by Ryan Rayburn / World Bank

The Data Manipulation Scandal That Could Topple the Heads of the World Bank and IMF, Explained

As the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund kick off next week, the Bretton Woods institutions are mired in scandal. I want to set aside the broader political calculations and focus on the case at hand: the Doing Business scandal. Facts matter, and the credibility of the World Bank and IMF matters beyond current leadership. So let’s review what we actually know about the data manipulation, how it arose, and who may be to blame, starting at the very beginning.

Center for Global Development logo

Remembering Girindre (Girin) Beeharry (4th December 1967 – 29th September 2021)

We are mourning the loss of our colleague and friend, Girin Beeharry. Girin was an intellectual force and a true impatient optimist, in the spirit of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he spent much of his career. He was outraged by the poor quality of schooling available to children in many parts of the developing world, and frustrated by what he saw as the lack of any serious global effort to do anything about it.

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.

A man lies in a hospital bed with an oxygen mask over his face

Three New Estimates of Deaths in India during the Pandemic

The official Covid death count in India as of end-June 2021 is 400,000. The reality is, of course, catastrophically worse. Unlike in other countries, authoritative excess death estimates based on official data have not been available because government recording of deaths, especially at the center, has been lagging. In new research, we provide three different estimates of such excess deaths based on three different data sources, each requiring different assumptions and methodologies.

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).

Chart showing that the actual pass rates and the rates of our sample, with the same students sitting for multiple tests, show almost identical variation year-to-year

Can Ghana Maintain School Quality After Abolishing Secondary School Fees? We May Never Know.

Each year over two million secondary-school students across Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia sit coordinated tests known as the WASSCE. In a new CGD working paper, undertaken by researchers from CGD and IEPA-Ghana, we look at English and maths papers in West Africa’s leading high-stakes exams and show that they can vary significantly in difficulty from year-to-year. If exams are not comparable over time then this has implications for countries that rely on results as they make education policy and for fairness for the candidates who sit them.

Graph showing that vaccination rates will rise much more quickly in wealthy countries, with the gap peaking in early 2022, then eventually closing in 2023

How Biden Can End “Vaccine Apartheid”

Building on spectacular scientific achievements, the rich world’s vaccine response to the pandemic within its borders has been (with notable exceptions) commendable. But the response of the international community has been mystifyingly myopic and unconscionably delinquent. We’re headed toward global “vaccine apartheid.” Visibly leading the charge to vaccinate the world, with significant political and financial commitments, offers the US the chance to regain considerable soft power.