Policy Insights in Education

J-PAL’s Education sector focuses issues of access, quality, and equity in primary and post-primary education. Our policy insights below summarize general lessons from randomized evaluations on student participation and learning in developing countries, and transitions to college and charter schools in the United States.

Karthik Muralidharan (University of California, San Diego) and Philip Oreopoulos (University of Toronto), Education Co-Chairs

students in India line up to wash their dishes

Student Learning

Providing information to students and parents to improve learning outcomes

Last updated: July 2020
Giving parents and students information about their educational performance or options often increases parental engagement, student effort, or both, leading to improved learning outcomes. Providing information is also typically a low-cost intervention.

Improving learning outcomes through school-based health programs

Last updated: May 2020
Around the world, learning levels remain low and therefore a priority area for improvement. A key barrier to participation and learning in school is student health, especially in low- and middle-income countries. However, due to a lack of coordination between health and education departments, the...

Tailoring instruction to students’ learning levels to increase learning

Last updated: January 2019
In classrooms around the world, many students are not learning at grade level and struggle to catch up. Dedicating a portion of instruction time to tailoring instruction to the learning levels of students is one of the most effective and cost-effective ways of improving learning. Tailored...

Student Participation Despite dramatic increases in primary school enrollment worldwide, pockets of low enrollment remain, and millions of children who are enrolled are not attending regularly. Strategies that decrease the monetary or non-monetary costs of school, or increase the perceived benefits of school participation, have been found to be particularly effective.

Increasing student enrollment and attendance: impacts by gender

Last updated: February 2019
Reducing the costs and increasing the perceived benefits of education increase student participation for both boys and girls, and successful programs tend to help the gender with the lowest initial attendance most.

Reducing costs to increase school participation

Last updated: February 2019
Programs that reduce the costs of education increase student enrollment and attendance. However, there is considerable variation in the cost effectiveness of different programs.

Increasing enrollment and attendance by making education benefits salient and changing perceptions

Last updated: April 2018
Interventions that address perception gaps about the benefits of education or make the benefits more salient can increase student participation at low cost. In contrast, increases in the quality of education can be difficult for parents to accurately perceive and thus do not necessarily lead to...

Additional Insights

Reducing community college dropout through comprehensive supports

Last updated: May 2020
Providing community college students with a wide range of comprehensive supports, such as counseling, tutoring, and financial assistance, can improve low rates of persistence and graduation. These support programs address many simultaneous barriers that students face, which may be a key driver...

Encouraging early childhood stimulation from parents and caregivers to improve child development

Last updated: April 2020
Evidence from 11 low- and middle-income countries shows that encouraging caregivers to play and interact with children aged 0–3 in a stimulating way improves children’s cognitive development. These programs can increase the time and resources parents invest in their children’s development. However...

Increasing college access by making the application process easier

Last updated: February 2018
Relatively low-cost programs to simplify the college application process and support students through this transition can increase college enrollment and persistence in the United States and Canada. Personalized assistance, timely reminders, and fee waivers were key components of effective programs.

Charter schools and student learning

Last updated:
In the United States, the estimated impacts of charter schools have varied widely. In Massachusetts, students who won lotteries for charter schools located in urban areas often did substantially better than students who lost; while students who won lotteries for charter schools in nonurban areas...

Sector Chairs

Co-Chair, Education

Tata Chancellor’s Professor of Economics

University of California, San Diego

Co-Chair, Education

Professor of Economics

University of Toronto

Sector Contacts

Policy Manager, J-PAL Global

Senior Communications, Policy, and Research Associate to the Executive Director, J-PAL Global

Senior Policy Associate, J-PAL Global

Senior Policy Associate, J-PAL Global