Session 1: Schooling

In session 1, all three presentations examined the challenge of converting increases in schooling inputs into learning outcomes. The first presenter, Nishith Prakash (University of Connecticut), discussed Bihar’s cycle programme which aims to increase access to high school for girls in Bihar, and showed that it was successful at creating incentives for enrolment, but not for achievement. Prakash also proposed that the conditionality aspects of the programme were not critical to its success, and that, beyond education, it might have broader impacts on female empowerment by improving teenage girls’ mobility and independence.

The second presenter, Karthik Muralidharan (University of California, San Diego), presented on the impacts of Andra Pradesh’s School Choice Project, a school voucher programme, and demonstrated that private schools appear to be a lot more productive than public schools. Despite not leading to better test scores in Telegu and mathematics, attending private schools appear to lead to higher scores in Hindi, English and social sciences. Furthermore, and going against oft-mentioned public concerns, the spillover effects of this project appear to be negligible both for students who remained in public schools as well as for those who were already attending private schools prior to the programme.

The third presenter, Atonu Abbani (University of Dhaka), presented the results from an evaluation of CDIP’s extra tuition program in Bangladesh and concluded that, while the programme did not manage to substantially increase pupils’ test scores, it significantly reduced the dropout rate for participating students.

Finally, as part of the open session, conference participants engaged by asking critical and constructive questions to our presenters. Among others, they inquired into the reasons why parents themselves did not buy bicycles for their daughters, the consideration of “character-building” aspects of schools in measuring their performance and the qualifications of the instructors in the Bangladeshi extra tuition programme.