With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
Primary school enrolment rates exceed 90 percent in many developing countries—getting children into school has been one of the success stories of global development. But many of these children are not learning.
A growing number of approaches to improve learning are being tried and tested since the global development sector has shifted focus to this global learning crisis—but these rarely reach scale. CGD’s research program seeks to understand what determines the success or failure of methods that aim to improve basic skills for children from all backgrounds.
A new report examining independent learning assessments in developing countries shows that while they produce robust measures to date they have done little to improve the quality of learning. Growing awareness of the sorry state of education is necessary, but it is far from sufficient to spark change.
My guest on this week’s Global Prosperity Wonkcast is CGD senior fellow Lant Pritchett, whose new book, The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain’t Learning, was released last month and is now available on Kindle. The book addresses a fundamental problem in education: despite great progress to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goal target for primary school completion, students the world over are leaving school having learned very little. “They need to be in school and learn,” Pritchett says. “If you create systems where the only measures of schooling are kids in seats, you’re going to get measures of time served rather than learning gained.”
The poor quality of education worldwide constitutes a learning crisis; donors and development agencies have been complicit in its creation, but they can and should be part of the solution, not by prescribing changes, but by fostering environments where change is possible.
With abundant data, sound analysis, and first-hand experience, Lant Pritchett shows that the way to turn underperforming schools around is to allow functional systems to evolve locally out of an environment pressured for success. Schools systems need to be open to variety and experimentation, locally operated, and flexibly financed. The only main cost is ceding control; the reward would be the rebirth of education suited for today’s world.
Could absenteeism be caused by the poor learning taking place in classrooms? After all, with years of schooling without gains in basic foundational skills in reading and math, it is hardly surprising when children struggle to perform. But what would happen if children were taught by their actual learning levels rather than their grade?
Students around the world lack foundational literacy and numeracy skills at striking rates. This essay examines the potential channels by which FLN investments and skills—which most systems teach in the early grades of primary school—may impact later schooling and subsequent life outcomes and the existing evidence for each channel. We find suggestive evidence for widening trajectories in school between students who master FLN skills in early grades and those who do not, although other factors may also explain the widening gaps.
Desmond Bermingham recaps the consensus from a CGD discussion about what to do about a hidden crisis in global education. He offers his top-12 tasks for delivery on global commitment to give all children a good education.