Can innovation skills be taught in schools? Experimental Evidence from India (Job Market Paper)

Higher-order skills like innovation and teamwork have gained importance in the education policies of many countries today. While innovation is considered a central driver of a country’s economic growth, team skills are critical for today’s workforce. However, evidence of how schools can teach these skills is scarce.

I am conducting a randomized evaluation of a program called “Think and Make” (TM) in India, which works with eighth-grade students from marginalized communities in eighty schools to develop innovation and collaboration skills. Students participating in the TM program work in teams to identify local community problems in the health, agriculture, environment, and education sectors, develop prototypes of their ideas and build potential solutions.

I use four methods to measure innovation skills in these children, including a novel measure of innovation developed with the help of real-world innovators. The other three methods involve – investors’ grants, user feedback, and a laboratory game for individual innovation skills. By making this program a part of their formal education in school, state policymakers are making their education system more inclusive and equitable, and this dissertation research can contribute to informing those decisions.


Partners - Inqui-Lab Foundation, Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society, Telangana Tribal Welfare Residential Educational Society

Conferences and Workshops:


Can phones be used for measuring foundational literacy and numeracy? Experimental evidence from India

Using a crossover randomized design with 1603 government primary school students in Uttar Pradesh, I report three key results about phone-based assessments (PBA) for measuring foundational literacy and numeracy skills. First, PBA are valid and reliable i.e. they measure the same outcomes and constructs as currently prevalent in-person assessments (IPA). Second, the performance on individual skills on PBA is similar to IPA. Third, individual performance on phone- and in-person assessments is also similar, with both modes suffering from measurement errors. Finally, in the specific case of literacy assessments, reliability on WhatsApp for sending literacy prompts is better than using students' school textbooks. Consider these results along with two other important possibilities - PBA are more cost-effective and operationally easy and they are better representative of the student population today due to accelerated penetration of phones and internet in the rural areas. These outcomes offer policymakers an additional assessment mode to measure students' learning outcomes for formative purposes. This could also potentially address the principal-agent problem in reporting of learning outcomes data that is currently prevalent and leads to huge distortion in reporting.

Read articles about this study: Ideas for India and Central Square Foundation

Funded by: Central Square Foundation

Presentations: AEFP 2022, GEEZ Seminars 2022

Workshop: Economics and Education Students Colloquium, Teachers College, Columbia University

Awards: Teachers College - The Provost's Grant For Conference Attendance & Presentation, Education Policy and Social Analysis Department Research Grant AY21-22

Gender Bias in Classrooms: Results from Experimental Research in India

Reducing gender gaps in the education attainment has been an important priority for international education policy, and it is also a part of the United Nations Sustainable

Development Goals. One recommendation from organizations like UNICEF and the United Nations has been that hiring more female teachers can be an effective policy mechanism for reaching the goals of girls' education. To understand if either male or female teachers are more effective for girls, I estimate the grading differences of male and female school teachers in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The purpose of this study is to examine potential biases in teacher grading by student gender and prior grades. In the study, teachers were asked to grade student essays. According to a 3x3 randomized experimental design, teachers were told that students of varying characteristics -gender (female, male, none) and prior grades (high, low, none) - wrote the essays. Results indicate that overall teachers score a girl higher than a boy. Although not statistically significant, female teachers grade an essay labeled with the gender identity of a girl with lower scores than the same essay labeled with gender identity of a boy. These are counterintuitive results. It appears in the state of Andhra Pradesh, government teachers are not biased based on gender, female teachers may not be as rewarding to girls as their male counterparts. Therefore, policies based on the argument that female teachers can help improve girls' education outcomes more than male teachers do not lend evidence from this study.

Partner: Directorate of School Education, Andhra Pradesh

Funding: Student Grant $10000 by Prof. Prashant Loyalka