“There is a need for a teachers’ house in my school,” said nine-year old Selina Josophati.
Selina, a second grade student at the government-run primary school in the Mchinji district of Malawi, is afraid that without a place to live, all the teachers in her school might leave town, shattering her dreams to continue studying and join secondary school. Selina wants to become a teacher when she grows up.
A condition of no growth in basic learning outcomes, despite high levels of education spending.]
Argentina is no stranger to stagflation – a condition of stagnant economic growth, despite high inflation. But, over the last decade or so, it has also been suffering from staglearning – no growth in learning, despite high levels of spending on education. This is not just inefficient; this is heartbreaking since it means the country is not capitalizing on potential poverty reduction.
On a foggy winter morning in Dhaka, 41-year-old Jahid was sipping tea by a roadside stall.
“Life was very peaceful back in my village,” he reminisced, “but there was no work, so I moved to Dhaka. Even if I live in a slum, my children are better off here.”
Jahid is one of the 500,000 people that move to Dhaka city each year. Driven by the promise of economic opportunity as well as poverty in rural and coastal areas, it is estimated that half the population of Bangladesh will migrate to urban areas by 2030.
Urbanization can be catalyst for growth. Density – the clustering of firms and workers – can drive productivity, innovation and job creation. It is the benefits of agglomeration that once drew the country’s most important industry – the ready-made garments sector to Dhaka city.
However, it is the costs from congestion that are now pushing factories away, mainly to peri-urban areas. Why are factory owners leaving?
For starters, the tide of new migrants has overwhelmed urban infrastructure, basic services, as well as the stock of affordable housing – eroding the both the livability and competitiveness of Dhaka city. A recent World Bank report described South Asia’s urbanization trajectory as “messy and hidden” – reflected in the large-scale proliferation of slums and urban sprawl.
In high-income countries, learning outcomes have improved as a result of an intervention that increases transparency and accountability through the use of test scores. In a previous blog, I mentioned examples of ‘high-stakes testing’ accountability systems, such as No Child Left Behind. A high-stakes test has important consequences for the test taker, school, or school authorities. It carried important benefits if the test is passed, such as a diploma, extra resources to the school, or a positive citation. Some of these interventions also follow the “naming and shaming” of school leaders, which is done in England.
There is also evidence that suggests that even just providing information on test scores will lead to improvement. This is the case in school choice systems such as in the Netherlands.
It’s 1998 and I am 23 years old. My thesis advisor, Abhijit Banerjee of MIT, along with some others, is trying to do, what would become his first, randomized evaluation in Rajasthan, India. The sacrificial goats appear to be me and Chris (the other research assistant on the project). Our threesome is completed by an old Yezdi motorcycle that has a tendency to go into reverse on starting it up.
We are piloting a feeding program in Non-Formal Education schools run by a local NGO. We spend enormous amounts of time measuring out lentils and giving them to schools, and driving from one village to another on the motorcycle. Lost in lentils, we are not entirely sure what this research is getting at. But we carry on, regardless.The sample size for the feeding program appears to be two schools. We then discover the local game---hiding behind bushes on very winding roads and throwing livestock or chicken in front of cars and motorcycles to claim compensation. We spend a lot of time avoiding such randomly thrown animals.