Exploiting inter-school variation in test scores to improve quality of public schools

The quality of education in Pakistan has received substantial interest from policy makers and researchers alike. Studies like LEAPS (2005) and ASER (2011) show that, on average, public schools are outperformed on tests of student learning by private schools. This gap between public and private education is primarily explained by school-level factors and persists even after controlling for community and student attributes. Yet it is also well known that students in both types of schools perform poorly relative to the learning standards, where children in grade 3 are found to have barely mastered the curriculum for grade 1 (Das, Pandey and Zajonc, 2006). On the policy front, the Government of Punjab has taken several initiatives over the last decade to improve the education system and, in turn, schooling quality. The scope of these interventions is enormous in breadth: from public-private partnerships to community involvement in school management and from provision of missing school facilities to providing additional resources in the form of free textbooks and scholarships. This report focuses on the quality of education in the public primary schools in Punjab and studies the recent teacher development initiative in this context. The main research questions of interest are two-fold: Within public sector, what is the variation in average test scores across schools and what school factors are correlated with that variation? What potential impact could the new teacher professional development intervention, CPD, have on student achievement? To read more, please download the full-length working paper, available below.

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