Ila Fazzio, Alex Eble, Robin Lumsdaine, Peter Boone, Baboucarr Bouy, Pei-tseng Jenny Hsieh, Chitra Jayanty, Simon Johnson, Filipa Silva, 16 December 2020

Achieving universal basic literacy and numeracy has long been a policy goal for development agencies working in areas of extreme poverty. This column presents evidence from a bundled intervention in rural Guinea Bissau which suggests that targeted education policies can have substantial positive effects on children’s schooling outcomes. Such policies could play a key role in helping people ‘escape’ the poverty trap, as the education gains from such interventions elevate local children’s attainment levels far beyond those found in neighbouring areas.

Carlo Barone, Denis Fougère, Clément Pin, 19 December 2019

Interventions that encourage parents to read with their pre-school aged children can be a cost-effective way to boost early childhood development and reduce educational inequalities. But socioeconomic and cultural barriers can hinder the efficacy of such interventions, and recent impact evaluations question their value. This column looks at a large-scale experiment that provided parents of pre-schoolers with books as well as materials on the benefits of shared reading. It finds that the accessibility of the information provided played a key role in the intervention’s success. 

Nuno Palma, Jaime Reis, 02 June 2018

Can less democratic forms of government lead to higher literacy rates? This column uses a sample of over 4,000 individuals from military archives in Portugal to show that an autocracy can have greater educational success than a democracy if it has closer cultural alignment with the preferences of the masses. This understanding has implications for development policy in poor countries today. 

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