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From EVIDENCE to POLICY: A note series on learning what works is a monthly bulletin highlighting studies that evaluate the impact of programs in the critical areas of human development --health, education, social protection and labor. From how to best supply rural health clinics with drugs to what helps students do better in school, these World Bank supported impact evaluation studies, along with other analytical and research work, aim to give governments and development experts alike the information they need to use resources most effectively. As impact evaluations increasingly become more important, we see this series as a way of communicating in non-technical terms the many innovations the Human Development Network is supporting, and the growing number of rigorous studies analyzing the impacts of those innovations.

Using Subsidies to Push Private Schools to do Better

To understand whether low-cost private schools can improve access to education and promote student learning, the World Bank evaluated a new public-private education partnership in Pakistan at the request of the government. Private schools receive a per-student monthly subsidy in exchange for waiving tuition and meeting testing standards. By linking the subsidy to student learning, the program aims to push schools to perform better. The evaluation found that the threat of losing the subsidy worked.

Fighting Hunger in Ethiopia

To understand the role that social protection programs can play in helping people feed themselves and their families, the World Bank supported an evaluation of an ongoing program in Ethiopia. This program includes a public works component for the poor. A complementary initiative works to build household agricultural assets so families can better provide for themselves. The evaluation found that these measures boost food security, helping households better manage year-round.

Can Small Farmers Be Protected From Bad Weather?

To learn whether cash grants and training can help poor, rural farmers develop alternative income sources so they better manage during weather “shocks” that harm or destroy crops, the World Bank evaluated a Nicaraguan government program that sought to assist families after a bad drought. Two years after the program ended, researchers found that families that received vocational training or small business grants were better protected against droughts than those who qualified only for conditional cash transfers.

Can Cash Transfers help Children Stay Healthy?

To help policymakers better understand the effects of conditional cash transfers on encouraging parents to take children for regular check-ups, the World Bank supported a study of a pilot cash transfer program in Burkina Faso. The evaluation found that conditional cash transfers boosted routine preventive health care visits, regardless of whether the money was given to the mother or father. On the other hand, unconditional cash transfers, regardless of which parent received the money, did not lead to more regular health visits.

Do Preschools Help Children?

To test the effectiveness of preschool programs on children’s enrollment in and readiness for primary school, the World Bank supported a study of an early childhood development preschool program in Mozambique run by Save the Children. The evaluation showed that children enrolled in preschool were better prepared for the demands of schooling than children who did not attend preschool and that they were more likely to start primary school by age 6.

How Can We Make Schools Work Better?

Researchers measured the relative effectiveness of a pilot program implemented by the Indonesian government to test measures to strengthen school committees and improve accountability, thereby leading to better student learning. The pilot found that the most effective way to improve student test scores was to support democratic elections for committee members and strengthen ties between the committees and local groups.

Do school feeding programs help children?

Researchers supported by the World Bank evaluated three Save the Children school feeding programs in Burkina Faso, Laos and Uganda. The results point to the possibilities and limitations of school feeding programs: when properly implemented, they can raise enrollment and possibly lead to better learning. But even then, feeding programs are unlikely to make up for the cognitive and physical lags that result from poor nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of life.

Can cash grants to young adults help create jobs and stability?

Researchers supported by the World Bank evaluated a program in Uganda that gave young entrepreneurs unsupervised cash grants. The money was well spent on education and building small businesses, showing that in some cases, unsupervised grants can be successfully used with young adults.

Do Vouchers for Job Training Programs Help?

Researchers evaluated a Kenyan program to use vouchers to encourage young adults to enroll in vocational training programs. The research showed that this was effective at promoting enrollment -- and that those who received vouchers that could be used for a private institution were more likely to sign up and stay in school.

Can Targeted Assistance Help the Very Poor?

This policy note reviews a World Bank-supported evaluation of Chile's Solidario social assistance program, which aims to reach families living in extreme poverty. The research shows that twinning regular social worker visits with changes to the programs themselves to increase access and better meet demand did lead to increased take-up of subsidies.

Can Bonus Payments Improve the Quality of Health Care?

To help build a body of evidence on how to encourage and support quality healthcare, the World Bank supported a study of government-run and faith-based health clinics in Rwanda. The 23-month evaluation, the first rigorous one of its kind in a low-income country, found that performance-based bonuses helped raise the quality and use of health services for women and children.

Do Supplementary Nutritional Feeding Programs Work?

A World Bank-supported a study of a program in Indonesia that gave young children special high-nutrition snacks found that the program reduced stunting in children aged 12 months to 24 months. This study provides useful lessons into how governments and policy experts can work to support proper mother and child nutrition during times of economic crisis.

Can Computers Help Students Learn?

A World Bank-supported study reviewed the impact of a public-private partnership in Colombia that places computers in public schools. The study found that students in participating schools did not show improved test scores, raising questions about the effectiveness of the program, which included teacher training in how to use the computers as teaching aids. Bad news is sometimes good news, blogged HDN Chief Economist Ariel Fiszbein, because it reminds us that “achieving results is not as simple as we sometimes seem to believe.”

Ensuring Essential Drugs in Rural Health Clinics

This bulletin showcases a World Bank supported project in Zambia, where researchers tested two new models for helping rural health facilities stay better supplied with essential medicines. One of the models worked so well that Zambian officials and donors are now considering how to extend it throughout the country.

Do Scholarships Help Students Continue Their Education?

This bulletin showcases a World Bank supported study in Cambodia, where researchers set out to study the effects of scholarships on encouraging primary school students to continue their studies in lower secondary school – and whether bigger grants worked better than smaller ones. The results of the study underscore the importance impact evaluation can have for policymakers, even as researchers plan a second round of data collection to answer some important questions raised by the results.

Teacher Pay in Andhra Pradesh

This bulletin takes a look at a World Bank supported study in Andhra Pradesh, India, where our team and their counterparts set out to explore whether paying teachers bonuses based on student test scores is more effective at boosting scores than giving schools extra money for supplies or teachers. The results of the project will not end the debate over how to encourage more effective teaching. But it does offer some powerful ideas that can help inform policy in this critical area across the developing world.

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