Discussion Papers 2019


"Fighting the Learning Crisis in Developing Countries: A Randomized Experiment of Self-Learning at the Right Level"

Author Name

Sawada, Yasuyuki, Minhaj Mahmud, Mai Seki An Le and Hikaru Kawarazaki


October 2019

Full Paper

PDF file


Revised in November 2020.


This paper investigates the effectiveness of a globally popular method of self-learning at the right level in improving learning outcomes|the cognitive and non-cognitive abilities of disadvantaged pupils|in a developing country, Bangladesh. Using a randomized control trial design, we find substantial improvements in cognitive abilities measured by mathematics test scores and catch-up effects on aspects of non-cognitive abilities or personality traits measured by a self-esteem scale. We also find a longer-term impact on cognitive abilities regarding the math scores students obtained on national-level exams compared to the baseline test scores. Moreover, teachers' abilities to assess students' performance substantially improve. Our estimates indicate that the program's benefits exceed its costs. The above findings suggest that self-learning at the right level can effectively supplement the quality of primary education and hence address the learning crisis in developing countries.