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There is a learning crisis in developing countries: most children now attend school, but many are not learning basic skills. CGD led a global initiative called Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) focusing on governance, accountability, information, financing, management, and the politics of reform. RISE was a partnership with Oxford Policy Management and the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, with funding from the UK Department for International Development and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In the last international PISA assessment for math and science, Vietnam outperformed many developed countries, including the UK and the US. Yet Vietnam only has a small fraction of the GDP of these countries. Should other countries with similar income levels, such as Indonesia, be asking themselves: “Why not me?”
High-stakes national assessments in developing countries tend to have important consequences for test takers. These assessments can determine a child’s future opportunities by deciding whether a child progresses to a higher grade or achieves a certain certification to enter the workforce. Because these assessments are important for both children and teachers, they have a strong influence on what actually happens inside the classroom, and as a result, on the learning outcomes of children.
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.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is little reliable evidence showing strong links between student achievement and teachers’ formal qualifications. On the other hand, numerous studies document the relationship between teachers’ classroom performance and student learning outcomes. Getting high-level and consistent performance from teachers in the classroom is central to improving delivery of education services. Yet the performance and effectiveness of teachers varies widely across and within education systems—and even within schools.
A couple weeks ago we got to spend two days listening to an all-star line-up of education researchers present the current state of the art in “Research on Improving Systems of Education,” aka RISE. Here’s what we learned.