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CGD’s work in education focuses on the role education can play in building more equal and prosperous societies.
CGD’s education program focuses on broad welfare goals and seeks to understand the role education can play in addressing inequity. Despite the tremendous progress that has been made in getting girls and boys into school, education has not yet fulfilled its promise of being the great societal equalizer. Gender inequality remains acute and deeply rooted in the economic, political and social spheres in developing countries. Intergenerational mobility is declining, not increasing. Poor children get educated in bad schools where they do not acquire basic numeracy and literacy skills while rich children attend good schools.
Our research examines the mechanisms through which education can give children equal life opportunities and build the human capital that nations need to prosper.
Somewhere in a village in Nigeria, a young girl is sitting in school today, just like she does every day, packed onto a crowded wooden bench in a faded school uniform. She represents a victory in the global effort to get all children learning, and her presence will be recorded as progress in the global databases maintained by UNESCO and the World Bank. There's just one catch. She's not learning anything.
Girls have achieved remarkable increases in primary schooling over the past decade, yet millions are still not in school. In Inexcusable Absence, CGD visiting fellows Maureen Lewis and Marlaine Lockheed reported the startling new finding that nearly three-quarters of out-of-school girls belong to minority or otherwise marginalized groups. This companion volume further analyzes school enrollment, completion and learning with case studies in seven countries: Bangladesh, China, Guatemala, India, Laos, Pakistan, and Tunisia.
India is a great example of what not to do, suggests Professor Karthik Muralidharan of the University of California, San Diego, a leading researcher on what works – and what does not work – in education in developing countries. Seems strange when you consider Indians head up some of the biggest companies on the planet, including Google, Microsoft and Pepsi. But Muralidharan says these high achievers show up the weaknesses in India’s education system. “The history of education in developing countries has not been about how to educate whole populations but how to channel those who are smart,” he told me in a CGD Podcast, recorded earlier this year.
After one year, public schools managed by private contractors in Liberia raised student learning by 60 percent, compared to standard public schools. But costs were high, performance varied across contractors, and contracts authorized the largest contractor to push excess pupils and underperforming teachers onto other government schools.