Each year over two million secondary-school students across Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia sit coordinated tests known as the WASSCE. In a new CGD working paper, undertaken by researchers from CGD and IEPA-Ghana, we look at English and maths papers in West Africa’s leading high-stakes exams and show that they can vary significantly in difficulty from year-to-year. If exams are not comparable over time then this has implications for countries that rely on results as they make education policy and for fairness for the candidates who sit them.
CGD Policy Blogs
A “Rosetta Stone” for Comparing Test Scores Around the World (and Across the Global Income Distribution)
How much do educational outcomes around the world depend on where you were born? In a new CGD working paper, we propose a very simple strategy to overcome this problem and build a “Rosetta Stone” for test scores. We take a single sample of students and give them questions from each major exam around the world. By grading each child’s responses on the original test scales, we calculate scores on different exams for the same child on the same day.
On what basis have some European policymakers decided that it’s wise to reopen schools? And how will those calculations differ in low- and middle-income countries?
The world’s poorest people have been getting richer recently. But they remain incredibly poor. The 10 percent of the world’s population still consuming $1.90 or less a day are subsisting on a small fraction of the resources available to people at the US poverty line. So you’d hope that the governments of the countries where they live would be trying to raise their consumption levels. But the reality is more complex.
Chart of the Week: Gender Pay Gaps around the World Are Bigger Than You Think, and Have Almost Nothing to Do with Girls Schooling
While I think it's silly to argue we spend too much on girls' education, perhaps it's reasonable to ask whether a concern with gender equality and a cold hard look at recent data would lead anyone to put their marginal dollar into girls' schooling over, say, campaigning for gender quotas (which seem to work well in Indian politics, at least) or even subsidized childcare (which has boosted female labor force participation in Latin America).
Teachers in poor countries earn far more, in relative terms, than teachers in the OECD—and several recent studies suggest their pay isn’t linked to skills or performance. But we also have growing evidence that high-quality teachers generate huge economic returns. The question is how to ensure high pay attracts high quality.
"There are better ways to improve test scores," "food is expensive," "most kids would eat anyway," and other counterarguments contain some truth, but fail to overturn the basic economic logic of free, universal school feeding in poor countries.
Last summer, the Liberian government delegated management of 93 public elementary schools to eight different private contractors. Given the intense controversy around the program, the government—with some encouragement from our colleagues at Ark Education Partnership Group, who helped manage the program—agreed to randomize the allocation of schools during the pilot, and the three of us partnered with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to evaluate its impacts.
How USAID’s Demographic and Health Surveys Overestimate Literacy around the World—and How to Fix That
Three cheers for the DHS! However, the value of the DHS literacy data is significantly undermined by a small, easily fixable flaw in the way the survey is administered.
A commission led by the UN's special envoy for education, Gordon Brown, is calling for a doubling of global aid for education, without any clear reform agenda to raise learning levels in the world's failing school systems. That might be ok: bad schools in poor countries still seem to produce big benefits.