Improving Education in Developing Countries: Lessons From Rigorous Impact Evaluations

Alejandro J. Ganimian, Richard J. Murnane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we reviewed and interpreted the evidence from 223 rigorous impact evaluations of educational initiatives conducted in 56 low- and middle-income countries. We considered for inclusion in our review all studies in recent syntheses that have reached seemingly conflicting conclusions about which interventions improve educational outcomes. We grouped interventions based on their theory of action. We derived four lessons from the studies we review. First, reducing the costs of going to school and expanding schooling options increase attendance and attainment, but do not consistently increase student achievement. Second, providing information about school quality, developmentally appropriate parenting practices, and the economic returns to schooling affects the actions of parents and the achievement of children and adolescents. Third, more or better resources improve student achievement only if they result in changes in children’s daily experiences at school. Fourth, well-designed incentives increase teacher effort and student achievement from very low levels, but low-skilled teachers need specific guidance to reach minimally acceptable levels of instruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-755
Number of pages37
JournalReview of Educational Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • developing countries
  • educational outcomes
  • impact evaluations
  • natural experiments
  • randomized experiments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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