Evidence impact: Improving education worldwide through the use of systematic review evidence
With development evidence, as with many things, more is generally better. But there's a caveat: lots of evidence on a topic can easily be overwhelming unless there's a good synthesis to tease out the strong findings from the background noise.
The real-world impacts of 3ie's systematic review on education interventions show just how useful evidence synthesis can be to policymakers. The review influenced education policy recommendations of the World Bank, USAID, and Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It won praise for its usefulness from Peru's education minister. And a global NGO designed new programming based on its findings.
The systematic review was a gargantuan undertaking, synthesizing results from 216 different programs of 21 different types across 52 countries. The full report spans more than 800 pages. To make sure the findings were accessible, we also produced a summary and an even shorter brief. In addition, we communicated findings through context-relevant presentations and infographics in numerous conference panels and national-level discussions. When we spoke to decision-makers in Nepal, we presented findings most relevant to the Nepalese context.
Overview of results across the review
The review highlighted some interventions which repeated studies have found to be effective, like cash transfers to increase attendance and structured pedagogy programs to improve student learning. It also highlighted interventions that promise to improve both attendance and learning but need more evidence, such as school lunch programs. The review also identified several interventions which did not seem to work, such as school-based management and computer-assisted learning.
The findings have resonated in high-level policy circles around the world. USAID's 2018 education policy drew on the review to identify effective approaches to reach marginalized and vulnerable populations. The World Bank's 2018 World Development Report on learning cites the review repeatedly to recommend specific types of programming. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade included the review in its own ‘meta-synthesis’. The review has also been cited in other influential policy publications, including this one from the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity and this World Bank-published book on education in Africa.
"3ie's systematic review and its summary report offer critical insights on the effectiveness of structured pedagogic programs, additional instructional time, remedial education and community engagement," said Jaime Saavedra during his tenure as Peru's Minister of Education.
Implementing organizations too have altered their practices as a result of the review. Pencils for Promise, an international NGO which builds schools and supports education programming, has shaped its approaches based on the review's findings on structured pedagogy, community-based monitoring, diagnostic feedback and teacher incentives.
The evidence impact summary, which inspired this blog post, is available here. Dozens more cases where evidence from evaluations and syntheses informed real-world decisions are detailed in this new section of our evidence hub.