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What Works Best in Education for Development: a Super Synthesis of the Evidence
International Education Research
  • Jeaniene Spink, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
  • Elizabeth Cassity, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
  • Adam Rorris, Cardno
Publication Date
Evidence based practice, Developing countries, Best practice, Systematic reviews, Meta analysis, Access to education, Intervention, Educational quality, Participation, Investment, Cost effectiveness, Education systems

This Super Synthesis draws together 18 systematic reviews, meta-analyses and comparative reviews of ‘what works’ in education for development. These reviews bring together key findings from more than 700 rigorous studies and their supporting research. The source reviews analyse studies primarily from South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central America with a smaller proportion drawn from the Pacific and South-East Asia. These reviews synthesised the available evidence, interpreted the results of primary research, and critically discussed the reasons why some education interventions are more effective than others. The majority of the reviews noted a high degree of variation across contexts, and in the duration and quality of the research included. Nevertheless, some broad patterns emerged which informed the compilation of this Super Synthesis of the available evidence. In general, programs that focus on teacher performance and aligning teacher practice to school contexts indicate improved student learning outcomes. Well-designed curricula and assessment programs are also related to improved student learning outcomes. In some contexts, system-level interventions such as teacher performance-based contracts and conditional cash transfers to families are related to positive improvements in student performance. Interventions that focus on educational infrastructure are costly, but strongly relate to increasing access and participation in schools. At the same time, additional infrastructure appears to have a limited effect on quality outcomes. Thus, an intervention that may have beneficial effects on student participation may have a negligible effect on education quality, or vice versa.

Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
Place of Publication
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Citation Information
Spink, Jeaniene; Cassity, Elizabeth; and Rorris, Adam (2017). "What Works Best in Education for Development: a Super Synthesis of the Evidence". Canberra: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.