Scaling Up What Works: Experimental Evidence on External Validity in Kenyan Education - Working Paper 321

Mwangi Kimenyi
Germano Mwabu
Alice Ng'ang'a
March 27, 2013


The recent wave of randomized trials in development economics has provoked criticisms regarding external validity. We investigate two concerns—heterogeneity across beneficiaries and implementers—in a randomized trial of contract teachers in Kenyan schools. The intervention, previously shown to raise test scores in NGO-led trials in Western Kenya and parts of India, was replicated across all Kenyan provinces by an NGO and the government. Strong effects of short-term contracts produced in controlled experimental settings are lost in weak public institutions: NGO implementation produces a positive effect on test scores across diverse contexts, while government implementation yields zero effect. The data suggests that the stark contrast in success between the government and NGO arm can be traced back to implementation constraints and political economy forces put in motion as the program went to scale.

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