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Working paper

20 December 2023

How to improve education outcomes most efficiently?


Noam Angrist, David K Evans, Deon Filmer, Rachel Glennerster, Halsey Rogers, Shwetlena Sabarwal

Governments must make tough choices about how to invest limited resources in the way that will make the greatest educational improvements. This paper reviews 200 impact evaluations across 52 countries to identify the most cost-effective programmes and policies.


Many low- and middle-income countries lag far behind high-income countries in educational access and student learning. Policymakers must make tough choices about which investments to make to improve education with limited resources. Although hundreds of education interventions have been rigorously evaluated, comparing their impacts is challenging.

This paper provides the most recent and comprehensive review of the literature on effective education programs, with a novel emphasis on cost-effectiveness, covering the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions from over 200 impact evaluations across 52 countries. The analysis uses a unified measure – learning-adjusted years of schooling (LAYS) – that combines access and quality and compares gains to an absolute, cross-country standard. The results identify programs and policies that can be orders of magnitude more cost-effective than business-as-usual approaches, enabling policymakers to improve education outcomes substantially more efficiently.


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Peer-reviewed by academic leadership team

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