india schools

The long-term effects of American Indian boarding schools

That is a new paper by Matthew T. Gregg, forthcoming in Journal of Development Economics.  Here is the abstract:

This paper explores some long-standing questions of the legacy of American Indian boarding schools by comparing contemporary Indian reservations that experienced differing impacts in the past from boarding schools. Combining recent reservation-level census data and school enrollment data from 1911 to 1932, I find that reservations that sent a larger share of students to off-reservation boarding schools have higher high school graduation rates, higher per capita income, lower poverty rates, a greater proportion of exclusively English speakers, and smaller family sizes. These results are supported when distance to the nearest off-reservation boarding school that subsequently closed is used as an instrument for the proportion of past boarding school students. I conclude with a discussion of the possible reasons for this link.

And this is from the paper’s conclusion:

Last, the link drawn here between higher boarding school share and assimilation should not be misinterpreted as an endorsement of coercive assimilation. Unobserved costs generated by the first generation of students might outweigh the estimated gains in long term assimilation. The program itself was extremely costly, which is one of the reasons for the change in policy towards on-reservation schooling during the 1930s. These results do, however, suggest that the assimilation gains from boarding schools are sizable, but, due to data limitations, this study does not reflect a complete assessment of the trade-offs of boarding school attendance.

Here are earlier ungated versions.  For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Emergent Ventures India, second cohort of winners

Praveen Mishra

Praveen Mishra when he was 16 started the Power of Youth, a non-profit aimed at empowering rural students by giving them mentorship and conducting competitions to highlight their potential. He since has been building a ‘YouTube of e-commerce’. He is the founder of ByBuy, an omni-channel retail platform, and he received his EV grant to help with this launch.

Akash Bhatia and Puru Botla

Akash and Puru are the co-founders of Infinite Analytics (IA), a Boston-based company whose proprietary AI platform analyzes customers’ data. They received their EV grant to repurpose their platform for Covid containment to help governments and authorities in India with contact tracing and mobility analyses. They have since helped millions of users, and their Containment Zone analyses are becoming the bedrock for lockdown exit strategy in Mumbai and Pune. Here is a video about the project.

Mohammed Suhail Chinya Salimpasha

Suhail is a 19-year-old senior grade homeschooler. He dropped out of high school to work on finding new ways to quantify protein in serum applied on a faster diagnosis of malnutrition. This is his TedX talk on the project.  He diverted his efforts towards Covid, to create India’s first multi-language Covid symptom checker, which was adopted by some local authorities before the Government mandated an alternative.  He is currently working on solving problems in containerizing applications, Enterprise Cloud, low latency API communication, and 5G In Social Tech Democratization.

Manasseh John Wesley

Manasseh John Wesley is a 21-year-old from Hyderabad, India, studying engineering and technologies like embedded systems megatronics/machine learning/data science/digital communication systems. He is the founder of River Bend Data Solution, a data science company with health care applications. He received an EV grant to create a platform for hospitals to provide X-rays and CT scan images and to use AIML to identify at risk districts in Andhra Pradesh.

Vidya Mahambare and Sowmya Dhanaraj

Dr. Vidya Mahambare is a Professor of Economics at Great Lakes Institute of Management working in macroeconomics as well as cultural and social economics issues. Dr. Soumya Dhanaraj is an assistant professor of economics at the Madras School of Economics, working in Development Economics and Applied Microeconomics. Their grant is to support their work in labor market and migration distortions.

Onkar Singh

Onkar Singh Batra is a fourteen-year-old web developer from Jammu and Kashmir. He developed and published his first website at the age of seven and holds the record for the World’s Youngest Webmaster. Furthermore, his book ‘When the Time Stops’ made him hold the record for the record of ‘World’s Youngest Theoretical Author.’ Recently, responding to the Covid pandemic, he received his EV grant for the web applications named –‘COVID Care Jammu’ and ‘COVID Global Care’, which connects doctors with users and helps users do a free anonymous Covid Risk Assessment test.  Onkar built his website keeping in mind slow internet speed and limited access. He has plans for many future projects, including working on a bio shield for 5G radiation technology.

Nilay Kulkarni

Nilay Kulkarni is a 20-year old software developer and he previously worked on a project to prevent human stampedes at the world’s largest gathering – the Kumbh Mela. His project’s implementation at the 2015 edition of the event in Nashik, with over 30 million attendees, led to the first stampede-free Kumbh Mela in the city’s history. Nilay has also spoken at TEDx New York about the project. He has worked on assistive technology for people with ALS enabling them to control phones using their tongues. He received his EV grant for the tech development of the MahaKavach App, the official quarantine monitoring and contact tracing platform adopted by the state government of Maharashtra. So far, the platform has helped reduce the time needed for contact-tracing from 3-4 days to 25-30 minutes, and he is now working on open-sourcing the platform for greater impact.

Data Development Lab

Drs. Paul Novosad and Sam Asher are previous EV grantees for creating the SHRUG database at Data Development Lab. The SHRUG is an ultra-clean geocoded database describing hundreds of dimensions of socioeconomic status across 8,000 towns and 500,000 villages in India. Everything in the SHRUG is carefully linked, extensively vetted and documented, and ready for immediate application. In addition to continually expanding the SHRUG, they recently received another EV grant for a second platform oriented toward informing the COVID-19 response in India. This platform has a wealth of linked pandemic-related data (e.g. hospital capacity, health system use, agricultural prices) not available anywhere else and is directly feeding several COVID response research and policy teams.

Deepak VS

Deepak VS is a 23-year-old Mechatronics Engineer from Bangalore, India and he has worked on traffic and communications projects. He also founded a college club called 42 Labs that eventually grew into a startup company called Tilt, a shared mobility platform designed for Indian campuses but now in corporate parks, colleges, townships, and cities across India. Working primarily with electric bikes, Tilt is partnering with companies to help provide alternate mobility solutions to people who typically use crowded and unsafe public transport.

Amit Varma and Vivek Kaul

Amit Varma is one of the most influential podcasters in India, and the winner of the Bastiat Prize in Journalism for his writing. He is the host of the iconic longform interview podcast The Seen and the Unseen, my chat with him on Stubborn Attachments is here and Alex’s appearances on the show here and here. Vivek Kaul is a prominent journalist and writer covering finance and economics. His most recent book, “Bad Money: Inside the NPA Mess and How It Threatens the Indian Banking System” was released earlier this month.

Amit and Vivek received their Emergent Ventures grant for their new podcast “Econ Central.” You can find Econ Central episodes here.

Raman Bahl

Raman Bahl is a 2012 Teach For India Fellow. He has worked over the last decade in different capacities to teach students, train teachers, create curricula, and create systems of teaching and learning in the Indian education system. In the light of the pandemic, rural communities in India are not getting access to quality learning at home. In particular, students from poorer and marginalized groups cannot access to remote/online education launched by local schools because they lack internet access, televisions, and/or learning materials. Raman received his EV grant for creating a Voice-based Academic System for students in rural communities, to enable access to learning at home, through mobile phones. He is launching the system in Purkhas Rathi in Haryana and hopes to scale the system to more villages and states.

PickMyWork

Vidyarthi Baddireddy, Utsav Bhattacharya and Kajal Malik are Indian entrepreneurs focused on the employability of graduating students in India. In 2017 they founded Reculta to digitize campus placements. In 2019, they launched PickMyWork, a platform for onboarding gig workers and getting them to complete tasks for client organizations through a pay-per-task model. In light of the manpower crisis during the Covid pandemic, especially on the frontlines, they want to enable matching of volunteers to emergency situations. They received their EV grant for adapting PickMyWork as a local volunteer response system to emergency situations like Covid by using the platform to source, train and deploy volunteers across various projects and locations.

Harsh Patel and Hiten Patel

Harsh Patel is an undergraduate student in electronics and communication engineering; his interests are in components, coding, and robotics. Hiten Patel is an electrical engineer interested in robotics, coding, and designing. They received their EV grant to develop robot prototypes that they call ‘E-Bot: Arogya Sahayak’ to potentially support hospitals, hotels, airports, workplaces, etc., to assist with basic tasks while maintaining social distancing.

Vinay Débrou

Vinay Débrou studied computer science and is a self-taught data scientist interested in psychology, data science, and new applications of network science for collaboration-generating contexts. He has also built resources for aspiring location-independent free-agents including a curated resources library and a weekly newsletter. Vinay received his Emergent Ventures grant to accelerate his ongoing project to build a network visualization/mapping tool (v0.1 here) to catalyze cross-disciplinary expertise-sharing and collaboration in Yak Collective – an open, networked community of 300+ (and growing) independent creators, consultants, and researchers.

Those unfamiliar with Emergent Ventures can learn more here and here. EV India announcement here. To apply for EV India, use the EV application click the “Apply Now” button and select India from the “My Project Will Affect” drop-down menu.

If you are interested in supporting the India tranche of Emergent Ventures, please write to me or to Shruti at [email protected] I believe we are seeing a blossoming of talent from India comparable to that from Central Europe in the early part of the 20th century.

Pandemic Policy in Developing Countries: Recommendations for India

Shruti Rajagopalan and I have written a policy brief on pandemic policy in developing countries with specific recommendations for India. The Indian context requires a different approach. Even washing hands, for example, is not easily accomplished when hundreds of millions of people do not have access to piped water or soap. India needs to control the COVID-19 pandemic better than other nations because the consequences of losing control are more severe given India’s relatively low healthcare resources, limited state capacity, and large population of poor people, many of whom are already burdened with other health issues. We make 10 recommendations:

1: Any test kit approved in China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, or Western Europe should be immediately approved in India.

2: The Indian government should announce a commitment to pay any private Indian lab running coronavirus tests at least the current cost of tests run at government labs. 

3: All import tariffs and quotas on medical equipment related to the COVID-19 crisis should be immediately lifted and nullified.

4: Use mobile phones to survey, inform, and prescreen for symptoms. Direct any individual with symptoms and his or her family to a testing center, or direct mobile testing to them.

5: Keep mobile phone accounts alive even if the phone bills are not paid, and provide a subsidy for pay-as-you-go account holders who cannot afford to pay for mobile services. 

6: Requisition government schools and buildings and rent private hotel rooms, repurposing them as quarantine facilities. 

7: Rapidly scale up the production and distribution of masks and encourage everyone to wear masks. 

8: Truck in water and soap for hand washing and use existing distribution networks to provide hand sanitizers. 

9: Accept voter identification cards and AADHAAR cards for in-kind transfers at ration shops.

10: Announce a direct cash transfer of a minimum of 3000 rupees per month (equivalent to the poverty line of $1.25 a day or $38 a month) to be distributed through Jan Dhan accounts or mobile phone applications such as Paytm.

See the whole thing for more on the rationales.

Addendum: As we went to press we heard that India will lift tariffs on medical equipment. My co-author lobbied hard for this.

Emergent Ventures India

Thanks to a special grant, there is now a devoted tranche of Emergent Ventures India. In the last two years, EV has received excellent applications related to India, both from residents in India and entrepreneurs and academics around the world working on India-related projects. This is not surprising because India has exceptional young talent with great ideas, but its traditional educational and philanthropic institutions have not always identified and nurtured these ideas and individuals. And given the size of the opportunity in India, a successful idea can change the lives of a very large number of people. In this sense, EV India is our attempt at a moonshot.

And a given dollar goes much further there!

Those unfamiliar with Emergent Ventures can learn more here and here.

EV India will provide grants and micro grants to jump-start high-reward ideas that advance prosperity, opportunity, liberty, and the well-being of Indians. We encourage unorthodox ideas and also requests that are too small to attract interest from the traditional models of funding and philanthropy.

Shruti Rajagopalan (also an Emergent Ventures Winner) joined Mercatus in the fall of 2019 as a senior research fellow studying Indian political economy and economic development. Shruti and I (Tyler) are already working together to evaluate applications for EV India.  And note we are now working on some Covid-19-related grants!

To apply for EV India, use the EV application click the “Apply Now” button and select India from the “My Project Will Affect” drop-down menu.

Here is a list of past grants and fellowships made to India related projects:

Harshita Arora (first EV cohort), an 18-year-old Indian prodigy from Saharanpur, in addition to her work in the sciences, she recently co-founded AtoB, a startup building a sustainable transportation network for intercity commuters using buses.

Neil Deshmukh, high school student in Pennsylvania, for general career support and also to support his work on smartphone apps for helping Indian farmers identify, diagnose, and recommend treatment options for crop diseases (PlantumAI) and for helping the blind and visually impaired interpret images through sound (VocalEyes).

Paul Novosad, at Dartmouth, with Sam Asher, at Johns Hopkins, to enable the construction of a scalable platform for the integration and dissemination of socioeconomic data in India, ideally to cover every town and village, toward the end of informing actionable improvements. The Socioeconomic High-resolution Rural-Urban Geographic Dataset on India (SHRUG) is available here.

Tejas Subramaniam, a high schooler from Chennai, for prospective work on disseminating information about the prevalence of sexual violence, the harm it does, and effective tools to reduce its incidence. Tejas (with his team) won the World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) in August 2019.

Namrata Narain, Harvard Ph.D student in economics, for work on “What happens to the ability of firms to write contracts when courts are dysfunctional?”

Samarth Jajoo, a high school student in Ahmedabad, India, to assist in his purchase of study materials for math, computer science, and tutoring. He has developed a project called read.gift, which is a new book gifting project.

Himanshu Dhingra, an entrepreneurial Indian law student, to support his travel and internship at Project Arizona.

Ashish Kulkarni, an economics professor at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, to support a podcast on asynchronous mentoring.

Shrirang Karandikar, to support an Indian project to get the kits to measure and understand local pollution.

If you are interested in supporting the India tranche of Emergent Ventures, please write to me or to Shruti at [email protected]

Private versus Public Health Care in India

In an important paper in the latest AER, Das, Holla, Mohpal and the excellent Karthik Muralidharan compare private and public health care in India. (I once asked, “Is any economist doing more important work with greater potential for real improvement in the lives of millions than Karthik Muralidharan?” See previous posts on Karthik’s work for the answer.)

The AER paper examines health care in villages in Madhya Pradesh, one of the poorer states in India (GDP per capita of $1,500 PPP). In India, primary health care is ostensibly available for free from public health clinics and hospitals manned by professionally trained nurses and physicians. As with teachers at public schools, however, it’s very common for doctors at public clinics to be absent on any given day (40% were absent on a given day in 2010) and public clinics are not highly regarded. As a result, some 70% percent of primary care visits nationally–and an even higher percentage in Madhya Pradesh–are to private, fee-charging health-care providers. Most of the private providers do not have a license or medical degree although they may have some health-care training.

ruralhealthcareindiaThe authors sent trained actors, “standardized patients” to public and private clinics to evaluate provider effort and accuracy in response to the presentation of textbook symptoms of common illnesses (angina, asthma, and dysentery in a child at home). Standardized patients are used to train medical students in the United States and in India and the Indian SPs were trained by professionals including medical doctors, and a medical anthropologist familiar with local forms of presenting illnesses and symptoms.

The first result is that the provision of health care is uniformly and distressingly poor. Overall, only 2.6% of patients received a correct treatment (and nothing unnecessary or harmful). The private providers, however, exert much more effort than do the public providers. The private providers, for example, perform more items on a standard checklist and they spend more time with patients. But the private providers are no better than the public providers at giving a correct treatment. Why not?

Private providers exert more effort but are less knowledgeable. Loosely we might say that Quality=Effort*Knowledge. Private providers put in more effort but have less knowledge and public providers have more knowledge but put in less effort leading to similar quality levels overall.

There is one big difference, however, between the public and private regimes, the private regime is much less socially costly. Since costs are lower and the quality level is the same, the private system is much more productive. The authors note:

…our estimates suggest that the public health care system in India spends at least four times more per patient interaction but does not deliver better outcomes than the private sector

(FYI, this also holds true for public and private schooling in India and around the world. Private schooling is usually somewhat better or about as good as public schooling but much less costly so the productivity of private schooling is much higher.)

To focus on the issue of market incentives rather than knowledge the authors do a second set of remarkable tests. Indian doctors often work in a public and a private practice. Thus, the authors send standardized patients to the same doctors but in one case the patient is treated under the public regime and in other under the private, market regime. Once knowledge is controlled for the results are very clear, private, markets dominate the public regime.

…treatments provided in the private practice strictly dominate those provided in the public practice of the same doctor. The rate of correct treatment is 42 percent higher (16 percentage points on a base of 37 percent), the rate of providing a clinically non-indicated palliative treatment is 20 percent lower (12.7 percentage points on a base of 64 percent), and the rate of antibiotic provision is 28 percent lower (13.9 percentage points on a base of 49 percent) in the private practice relative to the public practice of the same doctor.

The bottom line is that the private market for health care is much bigger and less expensive than the public health regime in rural India and once we control for knowledge it’s of higher quality. These results have important implications for reform. In particular, much more effort should go into improving the knowledge of the private sector.

….the marginal returns to better training and credentialing may be higher for private health care providers who have stronger incentives for exerting effort. Current policy thinking often points in the opposite direction, with a focus on hiring, training, and capacity building in the public sector on one hand (without much attention to their incentives for effort), and considerable resistance to training and providing legitimacy to unqualified private providers on the other.

Low Cost Private Schools in the Developing World

Private schools for the poor are growing rapidly throughout the developing world. The Economist has a review:

PrivateSchoolingPrivate schools enroll a much bigger share of primary-school pupils in poor countries than in rich ones: a fifth, according to data compiled from official sources, up from a tenth two decades ago (see chart 1). Since they are often unregistered, this is sure to be an underestimate. A school census in Lagos in 2010-11, for example, found four times as many private schools as in government records. UNESCO, the UN agency responsible for education, estimates that half of all spending on education in poor countries comes out of parents’ pockets (see chart 2). In rich countries the share is much lower.

Overall, there is good evidence that private school systems tend to create small but meaningful increases in achievement (e.g. herehere, here, here) and especially good evidence that they do so with large costs savings. The large costs savings suggest that with the right institutional structure, which might involve vouchers and nationally comparable testing, an entrepreneurial private sector could create very large gains. Karthik Muralidharan who has done key work on private schools and performance pay in India puts it this way:

Since private schools achieved equal or better outcomes at one-third the cost, the fundamental question that needs to be asked is “How much better could private management do if they had three times their current level of per-child spending?”

The Economist notes that another promising development is national chains which can scale and more quickly adopt best practices:

…Bridge International Academies, which runs around 400 primary schools in Kenya and Uganda, and plans to open more in Nigeria and India, is the biggest, with backers including Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. Omega Schools has 38 institutions in Ghana. (Pearson, which owns 50% of The Economist, has stakes in both Bridge and Omega.) Low-cost chains with a dozen schools or fewer have recently been established in India, Nigeria, the Philippines and South Africa.

Bridge’s cost-cutting strategies include using standardised buildings made of unfinished wooden beams, corrugated steel and iron mesh, and scripted lessons that teachers recite from hand-held computers linked to a central system. That saves on teacher training and monitoring.

The Economist is somewhat skeptical of scripted lessons, known as Direct Instruction in the education world, but in fact no other teaching method has as strong a record of proven success in randomized experiments (see also here and here).

Need I also point out that online education can bring some of the best teachers in the world to everyone, everywhere at low cost? An article in Technology Review titled India loves MOOCs points out that students from India are a large fraction of online students (fyi, we are also finding many Indian students at Marginal Revolution University)

Throughout India, online education is gaining favor as a career accelerator, particularly in technical fields. Indian enrollments account for about 8 percent of worldwide activity in Coursera and 12 percent in edX, the two leading providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Only the United States’ share is clearly higher; China’s is roughly comparable.

Education is changing very rapidly and its the developing world which is leading the way.

Private Schools vs. Caste Discrimination

Nearly 30% of children in India (ages 6-14) attend private schools and in some states and many urban regions a majority of the students attend private schools. Compared to the government schools, private schools perform modestly better on measures of learning (Muraldiharan and Sundararaman 2013, Tabarrok 2011) and much better on cost-efficiency. Moreover, even though the private schools are low cost and mostly serve very poor students they also have better facilities such as electricity, toilets, blackboards, desks, drinking water etc. than the government schools (e.g. here and here).

In an op-ed Vipin Veetil and Akshaya Vijayalakshmi argue that the private schools may also reduce caste discrimination:

It’s no secret that government schools in India are of poor quality. Yet few know that they are also breeding grounds for caste-based discrimination, with lower-caste students in government schools often asked to sit separately in the classroom, insulted in front of their peers and even forced to clean toilets. This despite the fact that caste discrimination is illegal in India.

…Government-school teachers aren’t necessarily more prejudiced than their private-school counterparts. But private-school teachers find it more costly to discriminate. In a survey of over 5,000 children, academic researchers James Tooley and Pauline Dixon found that students in private schools felt more respected by their teachers than children in government schools.

Caste discrimination in the government schools is also one of the reasons why the private schools focus on teaching English. Among the Dalits, English is understood as the language of liberation not just because it offers greater job prospects but even more because Hindi, Sanskrit and the regional languages are burdened by and interwoven with a history of Dalit oppression. As one Dalit put it“No one knows how to curse me as well as in Tamil.”

Private Schooling In India: Results from a Randomized Trial

Karthik Muralidharan runs very large, randomized controlled trials on education in India. His previous work showed that performance pay for teachers in India has large and significant improvements on student learning. In his latest paper (with Venkatesh Sundararaman) he reports on the results of The Andhra Pradesh School Choice Project, a long-term randomized controlled trial covering over 6,000 students in 180 villages for four years (2008-2012). The study offered students a lottery for a private school scholarships and lottery winners were compared with non-winners. The results show modest improvements in learning for private school students and big increases in school productivity.

We find that private school teachers have lower levels of formal education and training than public-school teachers, and
are paid much lower salaries. On the other hand, private schools have a longer school day, a longer
school year, smaller class sizes, lower teacher absence, higher teaching activity, and better school
hygiene. After two and four years of the program, we find no difference between the test scores of
lottery winners and losers on math and Telugu (native language). However, private schools spend
significantly less instructional time on these subjects, and use the extra time to teach more English,
Science, Social Studies, and Hindi. Averaged across all subjects, lottery winners score 0.13 σhigher,
and students who attend private schools score 0.23 σhigher. We find no evidence of spillovers on
public-school students who do not apply for the voucher, or on students who start out in private schools
to begin with, suggesting that the program had no adverse effects on these groups. Finally, the mean
cost per student in the private schools in our sample is less than a third of the cost in public schools.
Our results suggest that private schools in this setting deliver (slightly) better test score gains than
their public counterparts, and do so at substantially lower costs per student.

As Karthik notes in a Ideas for India short article that summarizes:

Since private schools achieved equal or better outcomes at one-third the cost, the fundamental question that needs to be asked is “How much better could private management do if they had three times their current level of per-child spending?”

Is any economist doing more important work with greater potential for real improvement in the lives of millions than Karthik Muralidharan?

Private Schools in Developing Countries

Tina Rosenberg has an excellent piece on private schooling in developing countries at the NYTimes blog:

In the United States, private school is generally a privilege of the rich. But in poorer nations, particularly in Africa and South Asia, families of all social classes send their children to private school….

BRAC used to be an acronym for Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, but now the letters stand alone. It was founded in 1972 to provide relief after Bangladesh’s war of liberation. Although you’ve probably never heard of it, BRAC is the largest nongovernmental organization in the world, with some 100,000 employees, and it services reach 110 million people.

…And since 1985, it has run schools… BRAC has more than 1.25 million children in its schools in Bangladesh and six other countries, and it is expanding.

BRAC students, in fact, do better than their public-school counterparts….BRAC students are more likely to complete fifth grade — in 2004, 94 percent did, as opposed to 67 percent of public school students. (The BRAC number is now about 99 percent.)  On government tests, BRAC students do about 10 percent better than public school students  — impressive, given that their population is the most marginalized. (emphasis added).

In my own work on private schools in India I also found suggestive evidence that private schools–mostly very small, urban slum schools–produced better outcomes than their public counterparts (paper (pdf), video).

Shout it from the Rooftops! Performance Pay for Teachers in India

Several years ago I reported on a very large, randomized experiment (JSTOR) on teacher performance pay in India that showed that even modest incentives could significantly raise student achievement and do so not only in the incentivized subjects but also in other non-incentivized subjects, suggesting positive spillovers. The earlier paper looked at the first two years of the program. One of the authors, Karthik Muralidharan, now has a follow-up paper, showing what happens over 5 years. The results are impressive and important:

Students who had completed their entire five years of primary
school education under the program scored 0.54 and 0.35 standard deviations (SD) higher than
those in control schools in math and language tests respectively. These are large effects
corresponding to approximately 20 and 14 percentile point improvements at the median of a
normal distribution, and are larger than the effects found in most other education interventions in
developing countries (see Dhaliwal et al. 2011).

Second, the results suggest that these test score gains represent genuine additions to human
capital as opposed to reflecting only ‘teaching to the test’. Students in individual teacher
incentive schools score significantly better on both non-repeat as well as repeat questions; on
both multiple-choice and free-response questions; and on questions designed to test conceptual
understanding as well as questions that could be answered through rote learning. Most
importantly, these students also perform significantly better on subjects for which there were no
incentives – scoring 0.52 SD and 0.30 SD higher than students in control schools on tests in
science and social studies (though the bonuses were paid only for gains in math and language). There was also no differential attrition of students across treatment and control groups and no
evidence to suggest any adverse consequences of the programs.

…Finally, our estimates suggest that the individual teacher bonus program was
15-20 times more cost effective at raising test scores than the default ‘education quality
improvement’ policy of the Government of India, which is reducing class size from 40 to 30
students per teacher (Govt. of India, 2009).

In another important paper, written for the Government of India, Muralidharan summarizes the best research on public schools in developing countries. His conclusion is that there are demonstrably effective and feasible policies that could improve the public schools thereby increasing literacy and numeracy rates and raising the incomes of millions of people.

The generation entering Indian schools today is the largest that has ever, or for the foreseeable future, will ever enter Indian schools so the opportunity to raise educational quality for essentially the entire Indian workforce over the next several generations is truly immense.

Indian education under the British empire

It turns out it was worse than I had thought.  I’ve been reading some papers by Latika Chaudhary on this topic, and I learned that educational expenditures in India, under the British empire, never exceeded one percent of gdp.  To put that in perspective, for 1860-1912 in per capita terms the independent “Princely states” were spending about twice as much on education as India under the British.  Mexico and Brazil, hardly marvels of successful education, were spending about five times as much.  Other parts of the British empire, again per capita, were spending about eighteen times as much.

Obviously, there is a “small number of British just couldn’t reach those hundreds of millions of Indians in the countryside” effect going on here.  Still, from what I am seeing education simply was not much of a priority.  There was some ruling, some building of infrastructure, and some resource extraction going on.  Education ended up as a side show, and ultimately the gears of empire were attuned toward self-maintenance and that meant only a minimal emphasis on education.

Primary schools were especially weak, as was education for girls, no surprise on either count.  In per capita terms, spending on education in Bombay was ten times higher than in Orissa.

Education in India

This is related to our recent discussion of why Indian test scores why so low:

Estimating the precise enrollment of private schools is tricky. Government officials say more than 90 percent of all primary schools are run by or financed by the government. Yet one government survey found that 30 percent of the 187 million students in grades 1 through 8 now attend private schools. Some academic studies have suggested that more than half of all urban students now attend private academies.

In Mumbai, so many parents have pulled their children out of government schools that officials have started renting empty classrooms to charities and labor unions — and even to private schools. In recent years, Indian officials have increased spending on government education, dedicating far more money for new schools, hiring teachers and providing free lunches to students. Still, more and more parents are choosing to go private.

“What does it say about the quality of your product that you can’t even give it away for free?” Mr. Muralidharan said.

Here is much more.

Indian call centers promote school enrollment

Emily Oster and Bryce Millett report:

Over the last two decades in India there have been large increases in outsourced jobs and large increases in schooling rates, particularly in English. Existing evidence suggests the trends are broadly related. In this paper we explore how localized these impacts are; this has implications for understanding how quickly information about these jobs diffuses. We use panel data on school enrollment from a comprehensive school-level administrative dataset. This is merged with detailed data on Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) center location and founding dates. Using school fixed effects, we estimate the impact of introducing a new ITES center in the vicinity of the school on enrollment. We find that introducing a new ITES center results in a 5.7% increase in number of children enrolled; these effects are extremely localized. We argue this result is not driven by pre-trends in enrollment or endogenous center placement, and is not a result of ITES-center induced changes in population or increases in income. The effect is driven entirely by English-language schools, consistent with the claim that the impacts are driven by changes in returns to schooling.

Teacher Performance Pay: Experimental Evidence from India

In an impressive new paper, Karthik Muralidharan and Venkatesh Sundararaman provide evidence on the power of teacher incentives to increase learning.  The paper is impressive for three reasons:

1) Evidence comes from a very large sample, 500 schools covering approximately 55,000 students, and treatment regimes and controls are randomly assigned to schools in a careful, stratified design. 

2) An individual-incentive plan and a group-incentive plan are compared to a control group and to two types of unconditional extra-spending treatments (a block grant and hiring an extra teacher).  Thus the authors can test not only whether an incentive plan works relative to no plan but also whether an incentive plan works relative to spending a similar amount of money on "improving schools."

3)  The authors understand incentive design and they test for whether their incentive plan reduces learning on non-performance pay margins.

The results are as follows:

We find that the teacher performance pay program was highly effective in improving student
learning. At the end of two years of the program, students in incentive schools performed
significantly better than those in comparison schools by 0.28 and 0.16 standard deviations (SD)
in math and language tests respectively….

We find no evidence of any adverse consequences as a result of the incentive programs.
Incentive schools do significantly better on both mechanical components of the test (designed to
reflect rote learning) and conceptual components of the test (designed to capture deeper
understanding of the material),suggesting that the gains in test scores represent an actual
increase in learning outcomes. Students in incentive schools do significantly better not only in
math and language (for which there were incentives), but also in science and social studies (for
which there were no incentives), suggesting positive spillover effects….

School-level group incentives and teacher-level individual incentives perform equally well in
the first year of the program, but the individual incentive schools significantly outperformed the
group incentive schools in the second year….

We find that performance-based bonus payments to teachers were a significantly more cost
effective way of increasing student test scores compared to spending a similar amount of money
unconditionally on additional schooling inputs.

Surprisingly, since absent teachers are a big problem in India, reduced teacher absenteeism per se does not appear to be the primary mechanism by which incentives improve learning.  Instead the primary mechanism appears to be more intensive teaching, including more homework and classwork and better attention to weaker students, this greatly increases the relevance of these results to teaching in the developed world.

Addendum: See also Karthik's comments on the comments at 26.

Private Education in India

Sebastian Mallaby has a good column on the explosion in private schooling in India and the implications for theories of development:

More than four out of five Indian engineering students attend
private colleges, whose potential growth seems limitless. …

Something similar is happening to the Indian
school system…Since the early 1990s the percentage of 6-to-14-year-olds
attending private school has jumped from less than a tenth to roughly a
quarter of the total in that cohort, according to India’s National
Council of Applied Economic Research. And this number may be on the low
side. James Tooley of the University of Newcastle in Britain has found
that in some Indian slums about two-thirds of the children attend
private schools, many of which are not officially recognized and so may
escape the attention of nationwide surveys.

The causes of this
private-school explosion shed interesting light on debates about
development, not just in India but throughout the poor world. The
standard assumption among anti-poverty campaigners is that education
leads to development…the recent private-education boom in India shows how causality can also
flow the other way…Since India embraced the
market in the early 1990s, parents have acquired a reason to invest in
education; they have seen the salaries in the go-go private sector, and
they want their children to have a shot at earning them… Once parents understand that education buys their kids into the new
India, they demand it so avidly that public money for schoolrooms
becomes almost superfluous.

… Apparently unconnected development policies —
cuts in tariffs and oppressive business regulation, or projects to
build roads and power grids — can sometimes stimulate new educational
enrollment at least as much as direct investments in colleges or
schools.

See my earlier post for some more references.

I know that we have a number of readers in and from India so comments are open if you have further information.