The popular notion about how schooling works—and, one could argue, the notion upon which the whole age-grade structure of schooling depends—is that one moves through a series of concepts that build on one another and masters them at the “grade appropriate” level.
CGD Policy Blogs
Imagine an economically thriving and democratic middle-income country that has achieved near universal primary school enrollment, tripled percentage of total government expenditure on education since 2000 (in real terms), and roughly doubled teacher salaries. You would think all is well, right? But new measures of learning progress show low absolute and marginal learning as students are promoted from grade to grade.
In the last international PISA assessment for math and science, Vietnam outperformed many developed countries, including the UK and the US. Yet Vietnam only has a small fraction of the GDP of these countries. Should other countries with similar income levels, such as Indonesia, be asking themselves: “Why not me?”
High-stakes national assessments in developing countries tend to have important consequences for test takers. These assessments can determine a child’s future opportunities by deciding whether a child progresses to a higher grade or achieves a certain certification to enter the workforce. Because these assessments are important for both children and teachers, they have a strong influence on what actually happens inside the classroom, and as a result, on the learning outcomes of children.
DFID’s new education strategy to tackle the learning crisis prioritizes a pivotal part of any well-functioning education system: good teaching. It is obvious that any attempt to reform education systems cannot work if it does not generate effective teaching practices, which requires skilled and motivated teachers in the classroom.
Much has been written about the difference in education outcomes between public and public-private partnership (PPP) schools. According to a review by Ark, so far there is insufficient or modest evidence linking PPPs—including contract schools, subsidies, and vouchers—with better learning outcomes (as distinct from evidence about public versus private [non-PPP] schools).
The release of the World Bank’s World Development Report (WDR) is a milestone in the struggle to prepare the youth of today for the challenges of the world they will face. The report focuses on both the need to “get education right” and how to reform education systems to meet the challenge of preparing today’s youth to be tomorrow’s citizens, parents, community members, workers, and leaders. As we outline below, the WDR and our RISE programme share many core themes.
When Pratham used simple “report cards” to provide information about learning outcomes to villages in India, the intervention largely failed. There was no improvement in attendance of children or teachers, no improvement in learning outcomes; and parents, teachers, and village education committees did not become more engaged with the schools (Banerjee et al., 2010). However, when Pratham-trained youth volunteers offered basic reading classes outside of regular school, reading skills of children who attended improved substantially after one year. Why did information provision fail to improve learning outcomes?
Cheating scandals are all too common across both developing and developed countries. Scores on high-stakes exams can determine a child’s future through access to better education opportunities and career possibilities. This performance pressure can lead to intense studying, a market for tutoring and exam preparation, and, in the worst instances, widespread cheating that can involve students, parents, teachers and officials.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is little reliable evidence showing strong links between student achievement and teachers’ formal qualifications. On the other hand, numerous studies document the relationship between teachers’ classroom performance and student learning outcomes. Getting high-level and consistent performance from teachers in the classroom is central to improving delivery of education services. Yet the performance and effectiveness of teachers varies widely across and within education systems—and even within schools.