Innovate, test, learn: Lab to improve education policy in Peru

June 1, 2016

MineduLAB’s policy cycle outlines how problems are identified, innovations are developed and evaluated, and learnings are incorporated into future programming.

Can a video reduce dropout and improve educational performance? Peru’s Ministry of Education (Minedu) is using its wealth of administrative data to quickly and inexpensively assess whether simple innovations can improve education outcomes through the Laboratory of Cost-Effective Innovations in Education Policy (MineduLAB).  Established by Minedu, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) Peru, and J-PAL LAC, the lab tests incremental innovations to existing education programs, primarily using administrative data that the Ministry already collects to assess their effectiveness. It is currently testing innovations ranging from booklets for administrators, teachers, and parents about school performance, to videos for secondary students about the benefits to staying in school, to text messages to encourage proper school maintenance.

MineduLAB is pioneering evidence-informed policymaking in the region. In the words of Peru’s Minister of Education, Jaime Saavedra: “We are generating evidence not only for Peru but for other countries that are facing the same challenges.” The lab sits within Minedu’s Office of Strategic Monitoring and Evaluation (OSEE) and is staffed by four monitoring and evaluation professionals. Each potential innovation follows the cycle outlined in the above figure: the MineduLAB team, departments within Minedu, or interested academics identify problems, propose potential innovations, and design rigorous evaluations to test their efficacy. Currently, MineduLAB is testing nine innovations, including:

  1. Deciding for a better future: Delivery of information (through videos) on the returns of secondary education to reduce dropout. Researchers: Christopher Neilson (Princeton University), J-PAL affiliate Francisco Gallego (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile), Oswaldo Molina (Universidad del Pacifico).
  2. Text messages to improve school management: Sending text message reminders to staff to improve school infrastructure maintenance. Researchers: Stanislao Maldonado (Universidad del Rosario), Andrew Dustan (Vanderbilt University), Juan Manuel Hernández-Agramonte (IPA).
  3. Delivery of Information on school performance to parents, teachers, and principals to improve student learning: How does comparative information on school performance affect student test scores? Researchers: J-PAL affiliate Francisco Gallego (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile), Christopher Neilson (Princeton University).
  4. Improving teacher performance through non-financial incentives. Researchers: Peter Bergman (Columbia University), Micaela Sviatschi (Columbia University), Josefa Aguirre (Columbia University).
  5. Improving public school management: Providing schools with information on their individual and comparative performance on management indicators to improve management practices. Researchers: Peter Bergman (Columbia University), Micaela Sviatschi (Columbia University), Josefa Aguirre (Columbia University).

The lab has also identified priority policy issues for 2016, including improving teacher performance and increasing applications of high-performing students for scholarships. A complete list of the ongoing evaluations is available in MineduLAB’s recent report (in Spanish) and on the MineduLAB webpage (in English).

Recently, Minedu presented MineduLAB’s work during an event inaugurated by Minister Saavedra, featuring J-PAL LAC Executive Director Magdalena Valdés, IPA Executive Director Annie Duflo, Christopher Neilson (Princeton), and other researchers and staff. Minister Saavedra highlighted MineduLAB’s focus on nudges, incorporating behavioral economics theory into policymaking.

For more information, see coverage of the event by the Peruvian newspaper Andina, the Government of Peru, and funder Fortalecimiento de la Gestión de la Educación en el Perú (FORGE).

MineduLAB is funded by the FORGE project for the Strengthening of Education Management.