System Coherence for Learning: RISE Webinar Explores What We Have Learned From 8 Years of Research on Improving Systems of Education

On 28 February, RISE hosted its final webinar where RISE Research Director Lant Pritchett presented ten new learnings from RISE’s eight years of research. The webinar was chaired by Charlotte Watts, FCDO Chief Scientific Advisor & Director for Research and Evidence.


Image of Rastee Chaudhry

Rastee Chaudhry

RISE Directorate

Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

In the System Coherence for Learning webinar, Lant Pritchett placed a spotlight on some new learnings emerging from the RISE programme that he found to be particularly pathbreaking and pioneering.

The research discussed in the 28 February webinar was just one cross-section of important research, hoping to encourage the audience to explore the complete repository of noteworthy research. Of the almost 500 research outputs from across RISE’s seven country research teams, two political economy teams, a research directorate and synthesis team, and a vibrant community of practice, choosing just ten new learnings was an impossible task, with just as many ‘Bayesian shocks’ resulting from other pieces of RISE research.

The ten new learnings spotlighted in the webinar were:

I. There was a significant long-term downward trend in the fraction of women with five years of schooling who could read, with big differences in those trends across countries.


Le Nestour, A., Moscoviz, L., and Sandefur, J. 2022. The long-term decline of education quality in the developing world. Center for Global Development Working Paper.

II. Closing the learning gap between rich and poor children would be far from enough to help all children cultivate foundational literacy and numeracy.


Pritchett, L. and Viarengo, M. 2021. Learning Outcomes in Developing Countries: Four Hard Lessons from PISA-D. RISE Working Paper Series. 21/069.

III. In Indonesia (a) learning trajectories flatten off at a relatively low level and (b) were falling over time.


Beatty, A., Berkhout, E., Bima, L., Pradhan, M., and Suryadarma, D. 2021. Schooling progress, learning reversal: Indonesia’s learning profiles between 2000 and 2014, International Journal of Educational Development, Volume 85, 2021, 102436, ISSN 0738-0593.

IV. When programmes are adopted and implemented without enough adaptation or iteration, even technically well-designed programme may have no impact.


Muralidharan, K. and Singh, A. 2020. Improving Public Sector Management at Scale? Experimental Evidence on School Governance in India. RISE Working Paper Series. 20/056.

V. States/ governments don’t just “see” a certain way but talk a certain way. The “grammar of the state” itself makes it hard to communicate new ways of doing education.


Aiyar, Y., Davis, V., Govindan, G. and Kapoor, T. 2021. Rewriting the Grammar of the Education System: Delhi’s Education Reform (A Tale of Creative Resistance and Creative Disruption). Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE).

VI. Interventions that affect the local system (“market”) can have effects not predicted from interventions with a single school.


Andrabi, T., Das, J., Khwaja, A. I., Özyurt, S. and Singh, N. 2018. Upping the Ante: The Equilibrium Effects of Unconditional Grants to Private Schools. RISE Working Paper Series. 18/023.

VII. The incoherence between what the curriculum says, what teachers do, and what examinations measure can be huge.


Atuhurra, J. and Kaffenberger, M. 2020. System (In)Coherence: Quantifying the Alignment of Primary Education Curriculum Standards, Examinations, and Instruction in Two East African Countries. RISE Working Paper Series. 20/057.

VIII. When the curriculum does not match children’s learning levels, better aligning instruction with children’s learning needs (in this case, with computer aided instruction) can substantially improve outcomes.


Muralidharan, K. and Singh, A. [Forthcoming]. Improving schooling productivity through computer-aided instruction: Experimental evidence from Rajasthan

IX. Classroom realities can be drastically different.


Duong, B.H., Dao, V. and DeJaeghere, J. 2022. Complexities in Teaching Competencies: A Longitudinal Analysis of Vietnamese Teachers’ Sensemaking and Practices. RISE Working Paper Series. 22/119.

Bruns, B. 2019.

X. System incoherences in relationships of accountability exist and play out in different ways.


Bano, M. 2022. International Push for SBMCs and the Problem of Isomorphic Mimicry: Evidence from Nigeria. RISE Working Paper Series. 22/102.

Siddiqi, S. 2022. Contested Identities; Competing Accountabilities: The Making of a ‘Good’ Public Schoolteacher in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Research on Improving Systems of Education. PE02.

Watkins, S. and Ashforth, A. 2019. An Analysis of the Political Economy of Schooling in Rural Malawi: Interactions among Parents, Teachers, Students, Chiefs and Primary Education Advisors. 19/031.

Bano, M. 2022. Curricula that Respond to Local Needs: Analysing Community Support for Islamic and Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria. RISE Working Paper Series. 22/103.

For more details, view the webinar recording on YouTube and the webinar slide deck (PDF).

View the webinar

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