Learning and Educational Achievements in Pakistan Schools (LEAPS)

Despite significant progress in enrollment and educational access, learning outcomes in Pakistan remain vastly substandard. Building on their original Learning and Educational Achievements in Punjab Schools Project in Pakistan, PIs Tahir Andrabi (Pomona), Jishnu Das (World Bank) and Asim Khwaja (Harvard Kennedy School) are leading a six-year collaborative research engagement to examine how to catalyze improvements in the country's educational system. This work is being spearheaded by Evidence for Policy Design in collaboration with the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan, with support from Pomona College and the World Bank. Our research on education is supported by Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE), Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL), and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). For more information contact Tiffany Simon.

Below you'll find a curated selection of our relevant media articles on the topic of education reform in Pakistan.

EPoD's Data-Driven Research on Education in Pakistan (American Pakistan Foundation, August 2017)  Improving actual learning in Pakistan means much more than test score numbers. Not just schooling, but learning, has significant effects on personal and social well-being that reach far into adulthood.

Better information to Improve Service Delivery: New Evidence (The World Bank, August 2017)        One difference between this study and previous school report card studies is that this intervention is at the level of the local education market.

An A+ Experiment: How report cards transformed Pakistan's educational market  (AEA, July 2017)   With low-cost private schools on the rise, students are gaining new educational choices.

Making Reforms Work (Dawn, July 2017)  There have been dozens of educational reforms across Pakistan, but at the end of it all, learning outcomes have barely improved.

Understanding the Levers for Improving Teacher Quality (RISE, February 2017)
Using data from a network of private schools spread throughout Pakistan to increase teacher quality.

PAKISTAN: Does Sharing Test Scores with Parents Improve Student Learning? (The World Bank, December 2016)
Impact evaluation evidence increasingly is showing that people are motivated to demand more and better services when they have information that allows them to correctly judge the situation.

Foreign aid should support private schooling, not private schools (Brookings, June 2016)
Most low-cost private school owners don’t do well at donor conferences. They don’t know how to tell compelling human-interest stories about the good they do. But what they are excellent at is using local resources to ensure that their schools meet the expectations of demanding parents.

Education is Becoming an Extremist Battleground in Pakistan (The Washington Post, January 2016)
The Taliban's attacks on schools and colleges in Pakistan are a particularly dangerous threat to the nation's future.                                    

Learning unleashed (Economist, August 2015)
Where governments are failing to provide youngsters with a decent education, the private sector is stepping in.

So much aid, so little education (Dawn, July 2015)
Five years ago, the Kerry-Lugar-Berman act was passed by the US Congress. Aiming to provide $7.5 billion to Pakistan over five years, the act was a bid to demonstrate American commitment to Pakistan and its people by investing in civilian sectors.

IDSS Presents 'Upping the Ante: The Equilibrium Effects of of Unconditional Grants to Private Schools' (Pardee Rand Graduate School, March 2015) Low-cost private schooling has been one of the fastest growing sectors in low-income countries. Yet these small "mom-and-pop" schools face significant growth obstacles both in terms of size and quality.

The Promise of Pakistan's Private Schools (The Wall Street Journal, December 2014)
When 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Wednesday, the accompanying pomp and press coverage helped rekindle a global fascination with the fearless young Pakistani activist who was shot and wounded after speaking out against Taliban attacks on girls’ schools.

Move to make quality education affordable (Dawn, June 2012)
Where can the children of common people get a good education when private schools are providing the facilities that the state’s public schools cannot deliver?

Public-Private Partnership: 'Is Education a Right or a Commodity?' (The Express Tribune, June 2012)
Educational experts debate the role of low-cost private schools in Pakistan at a seminar organized by the South Asia Iniative at Harvard University, the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan, and and Aman Foundation.

Pakistan needs more than three cups of tea (Foreign Policy, January 2011)
Mitigating Pakistan’s education crisis requires looking beyond what NGOs can do alone, to seeing what they can do in partnership with the government, appreciating the role of the private sector, and finally insisting that the public sector must work.

Education Policy in Pakistan: A Framework for Reform (IGC International Growth Centre- Pakistan, December, 2010)
Improving educational outcomes in Pakistan can be achieved by identifying the constraints in the education market and then alleviating them—sometimes by direct provision of schooling and other times by providing information, resources, or changing the regulatory environment.

Asim Khwaja: Education in Pakistan (Prospect: Journal of International Affairs at UCSD, November 2009)
The hope for Pakistan's rural youth lies in the interaction of the free market and government regulation.

Private schools get more popular in Pakistan (SFGate, November 2009)
[S]ince the mid-1990s, small, inexpensive private schools, once an urban phenomenon, have been sprouting in earnest in the poorer countryside, offering relatively affordable tuition, according to a 2008 World Bank report.

The Madrasa Myth (Foreign Policy, June 2009)
Knowledge is power: The reality of Pakistan's private schools is far from the hysterical image of madrasas. And how private schooling can save Pakistan's next generation.

Our core analytical work is divided into the examination of several system-level constraints. Within the below categories, we are pursuing specific studies designed to investigate each constraint.

Circumventing Information Shortages
Accurate information about school quality empowers parents to make informed decisions and helps create a system that recognizes and rewards learning innovations. We will examine schools and students from our original Report Cards study after ten years in order to explore the longer-term impacts of information disclosure on schooling markets and labor market outcomes for the children in the original sample.

Bridging the Resource and Financing Gap
Information increases efficiency, but schools need resources to implement learning innovations. In public schools, principals have limited access to resources to address their schools’ needs; in private schools, owners are limited by their schools’ revenues. To further this area of inquiry, we will conduct a long-term evaluation of a 2004 government-initiated reform that brought about a large increase in locally available funds in public schools, and examine the effects of offering cash grants and custom financial products to low cost private schools (LCPS).

Addressing Knowledge and Innovation Failures
A critical resource for growth in any sector is access to the latest knowledge and innovations. A key challenge in educational ecosystems is how to develop a viable market where successful educational innovations can be recognized and purchased by schools. To address this constraint, we use the Smart Policy Design approach to create, test, and refine products and a marketplace for educational support services (ESS) in LCPS, and evaluate the system-level effects of improving access to ESS on quality and observe whether the impact is enhanced when ESS is combined with financing..

Mitigating Labor Market Failures
High-quality schooling can create a virtuous cycle of increased demand and supply of education. Building upon our ongoing examination of education and labor markets, we will investigate the student and teacher labor markets, as well as teacher recruitment, compensation, and retention.

Community of Practice
Another component of our work program will create a future ecosystem for education research. By informing the creation of a learning-driven and systems-based approach to education at the Lahore University of Management Sciences School of Education (LUMS SOE), we aim to encourage key actors to jointly inform the development of LUMS SOE and ensure that their needs are addressed by the curriculum. 

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, and Asim I. Khwaja. 2017. "Report Cards: The Impact of Providing School and Child Test Scores on Education Markets." American Economic Review 107(6): 1535-63. (Online Appendix)

Bau, Natalie and Jishnu Das. 2016. “The Misallocation of Pay and Productivity in the Public Sector: Evidence from the Labor Market for Teachers.” Working Paper.

Carneiro, Pedro Manuel, Jishnu Das, and Hugo Reis. 2016. "The Value of Private Schools: Evidence from Pakistan."  IZA Discussion Paper No. 9960.

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, and Asim I. Khwaja. 2015. “Delivering Education: A Pragmatic Framework for Improving Education in Low-Income Countries.” Forthcoming Handbook of International Education.

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, and Asim I. Khwaja. 2013. “Students Today, Teachers Tomorrow: Identifying Constraints on the Provision of Education.” Journal of Public Economics 100(1): 1-14.

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, and Asim I. Khwaja. 2011 "What Did You Do All Day? Maternal Education and Child Outcomes." The Journal of Human Resources, 47(4): 873-912.

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, and Asim I. Khwaja. 2011 "Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting for Learning Dynamics." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 3(3) 29-54.  

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, and Asim I. Khwaja. 2011. “The Madrassa Controversy: The Story Does Not Fit the Facts.” Shahzad Bashir and Robert Crews, ed. Under the Drones: Modern Lives in Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands, Harvard University Press. June 2011.

Andrabi, Tahir, Natalie Bau, Jishnu Das, and Asim I. Khwaja. 2010. “Bad Public Schools are Public Bads: Test Scores and Civic Values in Public and Private Schools.” Working paper.

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, and Asim I. Khwaja. 2008. “A Dime a Day: The Possibilities and Limits of Private Schooling in Pakistan.” Comparative Education Review, 52(3): 329-355.

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, Asim Khwaja, Tara Vishwanathan, and Tristan Zajonc. 2007. “Learning and Educational Achievements in Punjab Schools (LEAPS): Insights to Inform the Education Policy Debate.” Harvard: February 2007.

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, Asim Khwaja, and Tristan Zajonc. 2006. “Religious School Enrollment in Pakistan: A Look at the Data.” Comparative Education Review, 50(3): 446-477.