The ability to recruit, elicit effort from, and retain civil servants is a central issue for any government. Can pay-for-performance contracts successfully maintain a skilled and motivated workforce? In Rwanda, researchers partnered with the Rwanda Education Board to design a pay-for-performance contract for teachers and measure its impact on both the composition of recruited teachers and their performance.

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Can training programs in the creative industries such as music provide opportunities to help improve youths’ technical and nontechnical skills to be prepared for and be successful in the modern economy? In Colombia, researchers are evaluating the impact of a music entrepreneurship and life planning program on fostering technical and soft skills development among youth.

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Ethnomathematics, an approach to teaching mathematics that incorporates local cultural understandings of mathematics, may improve student learning in indigenous communities. Researchers worked with IPA and the Inter-American Development Bank to conduct a randomized evaluation of an ethnomathematics program called JADENKÄ developed by Panama’s government for preschool students in the country’s Ngäbe-Buglé region.

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COVID-19 forced students across the world to move from in-person to remote schooling, presenting particularly acute challenges for children in low- and middle-income countries living in households with limited resources and internet access.

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Young people living in urban slums face several challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying lockouts. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted three rounds of surveys among 780 adolescent boys and girls in three urban slums in Bangladesh. The results showed an increased involvement of out-of-school adolescents in paid work during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those from poor households.

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The extended closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on adolescents. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted a panel survey (one round pre-pandemic, and two rounds during) among 2,000 students in Bangladesh to understand the differentiated impact of the pandemic on male and female adolescents.

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How can we improve students' educational achievement? Can radio instruction successfully support distance learning? In rural Peru, researchers implemented a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of an interactive radio instruction program aiming to increase the mathematics skills of preschoolers. The preliminary results show the program had a positive impact on math and oral comprehension skills, and on parental investment. More results forthcoming.

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Over a billion people worldwide, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, lack electricity, and mainly rely on kerosene lanterns for light. Recently, prices for solar lanterns have been dropping and they may help supply clean, affordable lighting and phone charging to those who are not connected to the electric grid. Yet little rigorous evidence is available on how this new technology is being adopted and used and how it affects people’s lives.

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Teacher evaluation

Professional advancement often depends on subjective performance reviews, especially in developing countries where objective data on performance may not be available. But subjective reviews may be susceptible to personal biases based on characteristics like gender. To better understand this in the education sector in Ghana, researchers compared both principals’ reviews and teacher self-assessments of effectiveness to an objective measure:  increases in student test scores.

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Vocational education programs are a popular strategy aimed at improving labor market outcomes for youth, but there is mixed evidence about their actual benefits. Researchers evaluated the impact of admission to one of Mongolia’s formal vocational training programs on students’ educational attainment, employment, and earnings. Admission led to higher educational attainment and employment for applicants, especially for women, and increased earnings for women.

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Evidence suggests that socio-emotional skills, such as empathy and emotional regulation, play an important role in life outcomes, but little evidence exists on the impact of teaching these skills to very young children. In Colombia, researchers are evaluating how an early childhood curriculum with a socio-emotional focus impacts children’s competencies in empathy, inclusion, compassion, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, emotional regulation, generosity, and advocating and car

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The transition from school to the labor market is a crucial step in the life of young people. Yet youth unemployment is much higher than that of adults in many countries around the world, including Rwanda. Challenges include a mismatch in skills paired with difficulties for young job seekers to signal their motivation and productivity to potential employers.

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The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated social and economic downturn are undermining children's educational and developmental outcomes, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Leveraging an on-going longitudinal study, researchers in Ghana conducted phone surveys and other research activities to measure the pandemic’s repercussions on children’s education and broader developmental outcomes.

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As early childhood is an extremely important period for long-term cognitive and non-cognitive development, incorporating promising pedagogical practices in preschools may be an effective way to improve learning outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. In Peru, researchers evaluated the impact of a tailored inquiry- and problem-based learning approach on preschoolers’ performance in math.

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The Covid-19 pandemic led to unprecedented extended school closures around the globe. Ghana’s schools were closed from March 2020 through January 2021. Remote learning was introduced to ensure children continue learning while schools were closed. Equitable access to education is difficult to maintain during remote learning and may increase inequalities by child gender and household backgrounds.

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