Disrupting Education? Experimental Evidence on Technology-Aided Instruction in India

Economics professor Karthik Muralidharan of UC San Diego


Date: 2017-05-24
Time: 4pm
Location: Room 1202, CSE Building, UC San Diego

Guest Speaker: Karthik Muralidharan, UC San Diego
Professor of Economics

Host: Design Lab


This seminar with UC San Diego economics professor Karthik Muralidharan is part of the QI-based Design Lab's Design@Large lecture series.\

We present experimental evidence on the impact of a technology-aided after-school instruction program on learning outcomes in middle school grades in urban India, using a lottery that provided students with a voucher to cover program costs. A key feature of the program was its ability to individually customize educational content to match the level and rate of progress of each student. We find that lottery winners had large increases in test scores of 0.36σ in math and 0.22σ in Hindi over just a 4.5-month period. IV estimates suggest that attending the program for 90 days would increase math and Hindi test scores by 0.59σ and 0.36σ respectively. We find similar absolute test score gains for all students, but the relative gain was much greater for academically-weaker students because their rate of learning in the control group was close to zero. We show that the program was able to effectively cater to the very wide variation in student learning levels within a single grade by precisely targeting instruction to the level of student preparation. The program was cost-effective, both in terms of productivity per dollar and especially per unit of time. Our results suggest that well-designed technology-aided instruction programs can sharply improve productivity in delivering education.


Dr. Karthik Muralidharan is an economics associate professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).  Born and raised in India, Prof. Muralidharan earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Harvard University (summa cum laude), an M.Phil. in economics from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.  Prof. Muralidharan is one of the world's leading scholars of education and social policy in developing countries. His research has received funding through competitive awards from the US National Science Foundation, the World Bank, the British Department for International Development (DFID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Legatum Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, Douglas B Marshall Foundation, and the Omidyar Network; has been published in leading economics journals including the American Economic Review, Quarterly Journal of Economics, and Journal of Political Economy; and been featured in global media outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and the Economist in addition to several leading Indian newspapers. He is a Research Associate of the NBER, and also on the Board of Directors of the Poverty Action Lab at MIT where he is co-chair of the education research program.  He is actively involved in policy advising and capacity building in India at both the central and state-government level, and is associated with the NITI Aayog (Govt. of India) as an honorary adviser for education and social policy.  A short summary of this work, and links to research papers are here


Upcoming talks in the Spring 2017 Design@Large lecture series:

May 31 -  Ed Vul, UC San Diego
June 7 - Eric von Hippel, MIT