Quality Versus Access

Posted: July 7th, 2013 | Author: | | 1 Comment »

Education access in the developing world is increasing.  But quality remains a big challenge.

Where to start for some perspective?

Esther Duflo is a great economist who is director of the Poverty Action Lab at MIT.  I was introduced to her by a friend, Josh Angrist, himself an esteemed MIT economist.

Esther kindly agreed to meet me for an hour to talk about her work.  We sat outside and talked until it was time for her to teach.  She is unassuming, straightforward, and not surprisingly given her stature, very sharp.

Here is an overview of JPAL’s views on K-12:

Low student attendance, absent teachers, and underperforming schools are persistent problems across the developing world.

Randomized evaluations have shown that simple interventions, such as providing deworming treatment and informing parents about the returns to education, can dramatically improve attendance at a low cost.

To increase student learning, matching instruction to students’ ability levels has proven to be very effective.

Incentives, such as merit scholarships for students, and performance- or attendance-based pay for teachers, have also improved learning outcomes in some contexts.

There is little evidence that simply providing more inputs (such as textbooks) has much impact on learning.

Here are the lecture notes from a JPAL lecture entitled “Is it possible to deliver quality education to the poor?”

For context, the problems.  Slide 1 reads:

Education quality is low in developing countries:

 High teacher absence

 High student absence

 Low achievement:

*For example ASER survey in India finds that about 35% of children age 7-14 could not read a grade 1 paragraph, and 60% cannot read a grade 2 story in 2005

The slides go on to explain….no literacy progress since 2005; similar results in Kenya, Pakistan, Uganda.

This is a steep mountain to climb.  Kids are increasingly able to go to school.  But not much progress yet on school quality.  Is it possible?  Presumably.  Just hasn’t happened.

One Comment on “Quality Versus Access”

  1. 1: The Bridge At Midnight » Blog Archive » Tracking In India said at 3:23 pm on January 23rd, 2015:

    […] In my first post on this blog back in July 2013, I wrote about meeting MIT economist Esther Duflo. […]

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