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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.
In this paper Patricia Navarro-Palau studies the effects of an increase in school choice by examining a 2008 reform that made the value of Chile's (previously flat, universal) school voucher a step function of student income. This policy increased the proportion of private schools that low income, eligible children could access free of charge from 0.5 to 0.7. She identifies the impact of the policy by combining its introduction with variation from a date of birth enrollment cutoff for 1st grade. She shows that the differentiated voucher lowered the probability that students used public schools by a small fraction and that these students shifted out of low achievement public schools to enroll in low achievement private schools.
The economic consequences of large-scale government investments in education depend on the general equilibrium (GE) effects in both the labor market and the education sector. I develop a novel general equilibrium model and derive sufficient statistics that capture the economic consequences of a massive countrywide schooling initiative implemented by the Indian government. I provide unbiased estimates of the sufficient statistics using a Regression Discontinuity design. The earnings returns to a year of education are 13.4%. The general equilibrium labor market effects are substantial: they depress the returns to skill and dampen the increase in economic benefits. These GE effects have distributional consequences across cohorts and skill groups, where as a result of the policy unskilled workers are better off and skilled workers are worse off. In the education sector, more private schools enter these markets negating concerns of crowd-out. These results indicate that researchers and policymakers need to consider the GE effects when scaling up micro-interventions.
As well as being the beginning of a new year, this is also the start of CGD’s 15th anniversary year, so what better way to kick off than to invite our president Nancy Birdsall to cast her gaze back to 2015 and forwards to 2016.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of volunteers in South Asia and East Africa walk many miles crossing rivers, mountains, deserts and farmlands to do something amazing: reach remote rural communities to assess whether children can read or do simple maths. Collectively known as Citizen-led Assessments (CLA), every year they show that most children are going to school but less than half of them can read or write at grade level. However, in spite of these universally damning reports, policy change to improve children’s learning has been painfully slow. So the NGO Pratham that started this movement is turning its army of volunteer data collectors into change agents to mobilize entire communities and raise awareness about the learning crisis across India.