Working Paper

20/056

Improving Public Sector Management at Scale? Experimental Evidence on School Governance in India

Karthik Muralidharan
Abhijeet Singh

We present results from a large-scale experimental evaluation of an ambitious attempt to improve management quality in Indian schools (implemented in 1,774 randomly-selected schools). The intervention featured several global “best practices” including comprehensive assessments, detailed school ratings, and customized school improvement plans. It did not, however, change accountability or incentives. We find that the assessments were near-universally completed, and that the ratings were informative, but the intervention had no impact on either school functioning or student outcomes. Yet, the program was perceived to be successful and scaled up to cover over 600,000 schools nationally. We find using a matched-pair design that the scaled-up program continued to be ineffective at improving student learning in the state we study. We also conduct detailed qualitative interviews with frontline officials and find that the main impact of the program on the ground was to increase required reporting and paperwork. Our results illustrate how ostensibly well-designed programs, that appear effective based on administrative measures of compliance, may be ineffective in practice.

Citation:

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. https://doi.org/10.35489/BSG-RISE-WP_2020/056