Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD Policy Blogs

 
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The Role of Randomization in Development Research: A Book Review of “Randomized Control Trials in the Field of Development”

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are, at this point, a well-established part of the development research toolkit. Yet policymakers, researchers, and others still debate how best to learn from RCTs, what they can teach us (and what they can’t), what ethical challenges they bring, and how big a part of that toolkit they should be. Late last year, Bédécarrats, Guérin, and Roubaud edited a 450-page volume on the topic—Randomized Control Trials in the Field of Development: A Critical Perspective. Here’s my take, published in the journal Population and Development Review a few days ago.

An image of an African mother helping her daughter with school.

How Do Early Child Development Interventions Affect Mothers? In Most Cases, We Don’t Know.

Lots of children in low- and middle-income countries do not receive the nutrition or stimulation in early childhood that will help them thrive later in life. In recent years, many countries (along with their international partners) have increased investments in programs seeking to meet that need: parent training classes, increased access to daycare and preschool programs, nutrition supplementation, cash support, and more.

Slide laying out features of teacher PFP programs, from who and what gets rewarded to the structure of rewards.

Teacher Pay for Performance: Does It Really Work?

We were asked: were teacher pay for performance schemes, where teachers are rewarded for better performance, the way to go? So, we embarked on a comprehensive review of the literature on teacher PFP in low and middle-income countries to help answer the big question—does it really work? Our team’s conditional “perhaps, but possibly not” answer was not very inspiring.

 Figure. Potential pathways from foundational literacy and numeracy to life outcomes

Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Skills Are Important, Obviously. But Are They More Important than All Other Education Investments?

It’s rare to read an education report these days that doesn’t mention the learning crisis. That’s not surprising. Literacy and numeracy skills among children are dismally low: less than half of all children in low- and middle-income countries can read by the time they are 10 years old. As these data have emerged in recent years, the global education community has swung its focus sharply toward learning.

Graphic laying out four principles for the use of edtech to help teachers

How to Use Technology to Help Teachers be Better and to Make Life Better for Teachers

In a recent note I look for examples of how education technology—rather than seeking to circumvent teachers—can help teachers to be as effective as possible and make their jobs and lives easier in the process. Looking at a wide range of experiences, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, I identify and discuss four principles to guide investments in technology to boost teacher effectiveness.

A map showing the students who have received the most education in the last year (darker colors represent more education)

It’s Been a Year Since Schools Started to Close Due to COVID-19

Twelve months ago, the world was watching as schools closed across China and millions of students began learning online from their homes. Most of us didn’t think for a moment that just a few weeks later, almost every country in the world would close their schools and the education of more than a billion children would be disrupted. Since then, millions of students have not had any school-based, face-to-face education.

A case worker interviews a young man at a shelter for street children in Yemen

Practical Suggestions for More Ethical Social Science RCTs

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in development have never failed to inspire discussion, on whether they offer methodological advantages, whether they answer (or distract from answering) big questions in development, or whether they are ethical. Several recent RCTs have ignited heated debates about ethical concerns, with responses ranging from some scholars calling for a complete moratorium to others continuing with business as usual.

An image showing 5 boxes explaining how to write an economic development paper.

How To Write the Abstract of Your Development Economics Paper

Last year, I claimed that you win or lose readers with the introduction of your economics paper. That might have been generous. A lot of people will read no further than the abstract of your paper to decide whether it’s worth reading, sharing, or citing. (Some people may read no further than the title!) So how do you write a compelling abstract?

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