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CfEE Annual Research Digest 2017-18: evidence from the developing world

“Developing” countries (those below the $12,000 per capita income threshold for rich countries) make up 36 per cent of the world economy, but 83 per cent of world population, and 87 per cent of the world’s school pupils. Identifying and tackling the matrix of factors that contribute to the massive waste of human and social capital implicit in these figures is one of the great reform challenges of our times.

In this year’s CfEE Annual Research Digest, edited by CfEE fellow Lee Crawfurd (strategic advisor to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change), leading thinkers on global education highlight the scale and intractability of the global learning crisis and where reform initiatives have brought benefits. 

To download a pdf of CfEE’s Annual Research Digest 2017-18, visit this page of our website.

To download a pdf of Lee Crawfurd's introduction, visit this page.

Taking into its purview the state of education provision across developing countries from Asia, to Africa, and South America, the volume offers descriptive analyses; causal studies investigating large-scale system reforms and new pedagogical approaches; and, going beyond test scores, studies of the effects of schools on socialisation and social mobility.

  • Taking Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, as his example, RISE director Lant Pritchett shows that despite 15 years of concerted effort to improve teaching and learning, and a tripling of spending, progress in schools has stalled, and at shockingly low attainment levels.
  • In an inversion of what we hope for, Jishnu Das, Lead Economist at the World Bank, reports on a recent World Bank study that finds parental background persisting over student test scores as the better predictor of university attendance in Pakistan.

Highlighting positive results arising from a number of policy experiments and new learning strategies,

  • Aidan Eyakuze, director of leading African think tank “Twaweza”, examining the Tanzanian government’s “Big Results Now” high-stakes accountability reform, finds test score improvement despite some gaming of the new performance tables
  • Celeste Carano and Nomtha Sithole distil the results of a World Bank meta-study identifying the key features of impactful professional training programmes
  • Barbara Bruns discusses two papers on the Kenyan ministry’s effective use of research evidence to design and scale-up a major, multi-pronged reform of early grade literacy teaching
  • Susannah Hares, global education director at the Center for Global Development, discusses a study of a school desegregation intervention in India that positively changed the behaviour of wealthier pupils towards their less wealthy peers.

To download a pdf of CfEE’s Annual Research Digest 2017-18, visit this page of our website.

To download a pdf of Lee Crawfurd's introduction, visit this page.

In reference to the publication, editor Lee Crawfurd said,

This is a fantastic set of papers from some of the top economists in the field. As such, it serves as both a useful introduction to some of the key issues facing global education, and an informed take on a selection of the more robust and most promising economic and other research papers emerging from developing world contexts at this time.

The report has been produced with sponsorship from 


About the editor

Lee Crawfurd (@leecrawfurd) is a Strategic Advisor with the Ministry of Education in Rwanda and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, and a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Sussex. He has worked on global development and education policy as a researcher, consultant, and civil servant for the past ten years. He has published peer-reviewed articles in the Journal of African Economies and Development Policy Review writes a popular blog

About the authors

Barbara Bruns is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and former lead education economist at the World Bank, where she specialised in Latin American education and rigorous evaluation of education programmes. As the first manager of the $14 million Spanish Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) at the World Bank from 2007 to 2009, she oversaw the launch of more than fifty rigorous impact evaluations of health, education, and social protection programmes. Barbara also headed the EFA Fast Track Initiative (now Global Partnership for Education) from 2002-2004 and served on the 2003 Education Task Force appointed by the UN Secretary General.
Celeste Carano is a Governance Advisor to the Ministry of Education in Liberia with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. She previously led fundraising and strategy for More Than Me, a Partnership Schools provider in Liberia, and worked on network growth at Teach For All.
Jishnu Das is a Lead Economist in the Development Research Group at The World Bank and a Senior Visiting Fellow at The Center for Policy Research, New Delhi. Jishnu’s work focuses on health and education in low and middle-income countries and he was member of the core team for the World Development Report on Gender and Development, 2011. He was the Flander’s Visiting Professor at McGill University in 2015, receivedthe George Bereday Award from the Comparative and International Education Society, the Stockholm Challenge Award for the best ICT project in the public administration category in 2006, and the Research Academy award from the World Bank in 2017 and 2013. He has worked in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Paraguay, Kenya and Zambia.
Aidan Eyakuze (@aeyakuze) is the Executive Director of Twaweza East Africa. Twaweza works to enable children to learn, citizens to exercise agency and governments to be more open and responsive in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. He is on the global Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Board of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). Before joining Twaweza, Aidan was Associate Regional Director of the Society for International Development (SID) and Head of the SID Tanzania office. Aidan is an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow and a Board Member of the African Leadership Institute (South Africa).
Susannah Hares (@Fihi_maFihi) is Senior Policy Fellow and Global Education Director at the Center for Global Development (CGD). Before joining CGD, she spent seven years as Ark’s International Director, where she was responsible for strategy, operations and programmes in India, sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe, and for Ark’s international ventures including the Education Partnerships Group, Global Schools Forum and Peepul. Prior to this Susannah spent two years as Associate Director, Global Community Partnerships, at Barclays PLC. She started her career in Kenya, working for African health NGO AMREF. She has served on the boards and advisory groups of various international education organisations and ventures. She holds a MA(Econ) in Political Development from the University of Manchester.
Lant Pritchett is Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development. He is currently a visiting scholar and guest lecturer at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, and Research Director of the £35 million UK and Australia funded Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) project. He has published over a hundred articles and papers (with more than 25 co-authors) and several books on a wide range of topics, including state capability, labor mobility, and education, among many others.
Nomthandazo Sithole advises the Ministry of Education in Liberia on the partnership schools initiative with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. She previously worked on youth and business growth initiatives in Liberia, her permanent home since 2011.
To download a pdf of CfEE’s Annual Research Digest 2017-18, visit this page of our website
To download a pdf of Lee Crawfurd's introduction, visit this page.