Equivalent Years of Schooling: A Metric to Communicate Learning Gains in Concrete Terms


In the past decade, hundreds of impact evaluation studies have measured the learning outcomes of different education interventions in developing countries. The impact magnitudes are often reported in terms of “standard deviations,” making them difficult to communicate to policymakers beyond education specialists. This paper proposes two approaches to demonstrate the effectiveness of learning interventions, one in “equivalent years of schooling” (EYOS) and another in terms of the net present value of potential increased lifetime earnings. The results show that in a sample of low- and middle- income countries, one standard deviation gain in literacy skill is associated with between 4.7 and 6.8 additional years of schooling, depending on the estimation method. In other words, over the course of a business-as-usual school year, students learn between 0.15 and 0.21 standard deviations of literacy ability. Using that metric to translate the impact of interventions, a median structured pedagogy intervention increases learning by the equivalent of between 0.6 and 0.9 years of business-as-usual schooling. The results further show that even modest gains in standard deviations of learning – if sustained over time – may have sizeable impacts on individual earnings and poverty reduction, and that conversion into a non-education metric should help policy makers and non-specialists to better understand the potential benefits of increased learning.
Last updated on 08/16/2020