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CGD's work in this area seeks to better understand the sources of global learning gaps and to identify solutions to help close these gaps.
While primary school enrolment levels have increased dramatically in recent decades, this progress has not been matched by equivalent gains in learning. Millions of children in the developing world leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills. CGD seeks to better understand what causes this learning gap and to identify policies and ideas to help end the global learning crisis.
Harmful cultural practices and norms—even the seemingly non-violent ones that consign girls to bear the brunt of household labor—have consequences for nutrition, health, educational achievement, sexual abuse, and child marriage. Accordingly, it is critical to develop a research agenda that places girls aged 0 to 10 at the center of policy to address harmful practices. Both as an issue of gender-based violence and as an impediment to girls reaching their potential, we need greater commitments to country-level data, informed and enforced legislative action, and innovative methods to challenging and shifting socially shared definitions of girlhood.
Internationally comparable test scores play a central role in both research and policy debates on education. However, the main international testing regimes, such as PISA, TIMSS, or PIRLS, include very few low-income countries. For instance, most countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have opted instead for a regional assessment known as SACMEQ. This paper exploits an overlap between the SACMEQ and TIMSS tests—in both country coverage, and questions asked—to assess the feasibility of constructing global learning metrics by equating regional and international scales. I ﬁnd that learning levels in this sample of African countries are consistently (a) low in absolute terms; (b) signiﬁcantly lower than predicted by African per capita GDP levels; and (c) converging slowly, if at all, to the rest of the world during the 2000s. Creating test scores which are truly internationally comparable would be a global public good, requiring more concerted effort at the design stage.
Behind the learning crisis in much of the developing world is a huge data gap. Only a few middle income developing countries have the political incentives and technical capacity to develop and sustain national systems that measure what children are learning in school; most school children in the developing world have never taken a test that can be compared year over year or globally benchmarked.
How can we ensure that girls and boys living in conflict-affected regions have equitable access to quality education? We are delighted to announce that Professors Dana Burde and Cyrus Samii will present findings from New York University's USAID-funded Assessment of Learning Outcomes and Social Effects of Community-Based Education in Afghanistan’s (ALSE). (DELETE- cutting edge randomized controlled trial assessing community-based education (CBE)).
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.
Changing the law is a good start, but real progress requires changing minds. On this week's CGD Podcast, former President of Malawi Joyce Banda and FGM survivor Kakenya Ntaiya explain why working with existing power structures is the most effective way to protect girls from harmful practices.