Research Associate - Foundations of Learning - J-PAL South Asia

J-PAL South Asia
  • India
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
Start Date (Earliest):
Language Requirement:
  • Hindi
Length of Commitment:
One year

Organization Description

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) J-PAL was established in 2003 as a research center at the Economics Department at MIT. Since then, it has grown into a global network of researchers who use randomized evaluations to answer critical policy questions in the fight against poverty. J-PAL is propelled by a team dedicated to research, policy, training, and other vital work, supporting J-PAL's mission to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is

informed by scientific evidence.

J-PAL South Asia, the regional office which is based at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in India, analyses and disseminates research results and builds partnerships with policymakers to ensure that policy is driven by evidence, and that programs proven effective are scaled up. We have a growing number of partnerships in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. For more information on J-PAL SA, please see

The Policy team at J-PAL South Asia (J-PAL SA) disseminates findings of J-PAL’s research; develops relationships with governments, civil society, and academic stakeholders; catalyzes scale-ups and replications of effective projects; and assists in conceptualizing new research projects. The team works closely with the global J-PAL office based at MIT to align the regional strategy with broader organizational objectives.

Project Description

Many poor children around the world underperform in school math. In India, 97% of children now go to school, but less than half of 5th grade children can perform arithmetic beyond 2nd grade level (ASER Centre 2015). In contrast, research in cognitive science reveals that infants and preschool children in different societies, with or without formal education, have an interest in and a shared, intuitive understanding of number and geometry (e.g. Dehaene et al. 2006; Jara-Ettinger et al. 2017; Newcombe and Huttenlocher 2003; Spelke 2011). Moreover, poor kindergarten children can play math games that draw on this understanding as well as more advantaged children do, both in the U.S. (Gilmore, McCarthy, and Spelke 2007, 2010) and India (Dillon et al. 2017). However, poor children have fewer opportunities to engage in these activities at home (Levine et al. 2010; Pruden, Levine, and Huttenlocher 2011). Because formal math learning depends on this informal learning, this suggests providing more of these experiences in preschool is a potentially cost-effective way to improve subsequent learning outcomes (Levine, Gibson, and Berkowitz, in press; Spelke 2017).

Moreover, with schools shutting down due to Covid-19, children have been out of school for more than a year and while many governments and NGOs have attempted to fill the gap by providing online classes, take-home worksheets etc. essentially necessitating a lot more parental involvement in children’s schooling, such exercises are aimed at children in higher grades.

Math Games is an innovative math curriculum that aims to develop children's intuitive concepts of number and geometry, informed by decades of cognitive development research, and rigorously evaluated through three randomized evaluations in Delhi. We find that children exposed to these games exhibited gains innate as school math skills compared to those who were not exposed to the games. We propose to adapt these game materials for home based play, qualitatively examine how families understand and use the games through piloting activities in around 150 households. We aim to develop games that are visually even more attractive and have more conventional formats. The

pilot would help us test that out. The home-games pilot will also help develop the games

package and refine the ‘delivery mechanism’ that will be tested in later years .

This is an excellent opportunity to obtain a strong understanding of how children learn mathematics, and the economic and policy issues relating to early childhood education.

Roles and Responsibilities:

The Research Associate will work closely with PIs and the field team to undertake the following


  • Work closely with PIs to develop games to be piloted.
  • Setting up of pilots in conjunction with NGO or government partners.
  • Overseeing implementation of the pilot in accordance to the research design, in
  • association with our partner organization.
  • Work closely with PIs to develop child assessments and other questionnaires.
  • Lead data collection with support from the field team.
  • Data cleaning and management
    • Review and vet project datasets and maintain an efficient data documentation system.
    • Work with other members of the team to reconcile any gaps or errors in the data.
  • Data analysis and synthesis
    • Assist in analysis of qualitative and quantitative data collected during the project’s implementation.
    • Liaise with members of the project team by sending them statistics as and when required.
    • Generate aggregated views of the data for various stakeholders – the Principal Investigators, donors and other partners.
    • Assist in documenting data collection efforts, including any issues and key decisions taken for improvements.
  • Reporting to PIs and team members on all of the above-mentioned activities.
  • Maintain compliance with all J-PAL protocols and policies.
  • Assist in preparation of documents and presentations for donor reporting as well policy memos as dissemination activities.
  • Responsible for general project documentation.

Desired Qualifications and Experience:

  • Bachelor's/Master's degree in economics, education, applied psychology, cognitive
  • science or related fields.
  • Experience 0-2 years, experience working in cognitive science/education sector
  • preferred.
  • Experience working in urban slums.
  • Excellent management/organizational skills and able to solve unexpected problems.
  • Strong quantitative and qualitative research skills.
  • Working knowledge of Stata.
  • Familiarity with RCTs.
  • Flexible, self-motivating, independent and manages multiple tasks efficiently.
  • Ability to deal with unstructured and changing environments.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Fluency and excellent communication skills in English and Hindi.

How to Apply

Complete the J-PAL/IPA common application. After completing a brief registration, choose the Research job category, then select "Research Associate - Foundations of Learning - J-PAL South Asia” and include resume, cover letter, transcripts, and two recommendation letters. Note that applications with incomplete submissions will not be considered.

You are able to submit your application before your references complete their recommendation letters; however, you must include their contact information before submitting your application. Given the volume of applications received, only short-listed candidates will be contacted for an interview.