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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 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.

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. Read More
Une petite fille dans une école primaire en Inde.

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. Read More

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 increases in enrollment or attendance. Read More

Student Learning

A Teaching at the Right Level reading activity in Zambia. Photo: Anton Scholtz | J-PAL

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 instruction can be delivered effectively through multiple channels: during or after school and by tutors, volunteers, government teachers, or through education technology. Read More

Additional Insights


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. Read More
Students work on white board

Charter schools and student learning

Last updated: May 2017
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 fared, on average, about the same or somewhat worse compared to those who lost. A common feature of the charter schools with the most positive effects has been the adoption of a “No Excuses” educational... Read More

Sector Contacts

Priyanka Varma

Senior Policy Associate

[email protected]
(617) 253-7160

Masha Bertling

Masha Bertling

Pre-Doctoral Education Measurement Fellow

[email protected]

Radhika Bhula

Policy Manager

[email protected]
(617) 324-6562

Robert Rogers

Senior Policy Associate

[email protected]
(617) 258-0926

Samantha Friedlander

Senior Policy Associate

[email protected]

Sector Chairs