Panel: Improving Educational Outcomes In Developing Countries

Saturday, November 10, 2012: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Carroll (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Juan Esteban Saavedra, RAND Corporation
Moderators:  Adrienne M. Lucas, University of Delaware
Chairs:  Will Dobbie, Harvard University

This four-paper panel examines empirical evidence on approaches to improving educational outcomes in developing countries. The papers employ a different array of analytic tools —meta-analysis, randomized control field experiments and cross-country comparisons— to shed light on important education policy domains in developing countries such as the design of conditional cash transfer programs, the effectiveness of supply-side interventions, and the efficiency of education spending. Paper one, Impacts of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs on Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: A Meta-Analysis, meta-analyzes enrollment, attendance and dropout effect estimates from forty two references of conditional cash transfer program evaluations in fifteen developing countries. Average effect sizes for all outcomes in primary and secondary schooling are statistically different from zero. Average effect sizes for secondary enrollment, attendance and dropout are larger than those for primary. For all outcomes and schooling levels, there is considerable heterogeneity in effect sizes. Programs with more generous transfers have larger primary and secondary enrollment effects. Programs that condition benefit receipt on achievement and pay transfers less frequently than monthly, exhibit larger enrollment and attendance effects. Paper two, Improving Girls’ Education: Experimental Evaluation of Niger’s IMAGINE Program, evaluates a primary school construction program aimed at increasing girls’ enrollment and completion rates in areas with low female school participation. From a sample of 204 eligible villages, sixty-five chosen at random received an IMAGINE school facility. One-year after school construction completion, girls in treated villages were 8 percentage-points more likely to enroll and 5.4 percentage-points more like to attend school. The program had no impact on girls’ math scores, though there is suggestive evidence it may have had a positive impact on girls’ French test scores. Paper three, When Education Expenditure Matters, examines whether there are diminishing returns to education expenditures using cross-country data. Education spending is positively related to student achievement among countries that spend relatively little, such that among these countries, an additional US$1000 in per-pupil expenditures is associated with a 0.2 standard deviation increase in mean student achievement. In contrast, there is no association between student achievement and educational spending among high-spending countries. Paper four, Improving Reading Skills and Attitudes Towards Reading: Experimental Evidence from Chile, evaluates a reading tutoring program—funded by the Chilean Education Ministry—in which fourth-grade students in forty-five randomly selected low-performing schools receive, over the span of three months, fifteen tutoring sessions with volunteer college students. Program effects on reading test-scores and attitudes are strongest—between 0.2 and 0.3 standard deviations—in high-poverty schools and in schools that complied with the fifteen-session cycle and managed to maintain small tutoring groups.

When Education Expenditure Matters
Emiliana Vegas, Inter-American Development Bank and Chelsea Coffin, The World Bank

Improving Reading Skills and Attitudes towards Reading: Experimental Evidence From Chile
Francisco Gallego, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Veronica Cabezas, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

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