ED: Too hard for the students, and therefore I think very depressing for the teachers. Part of the teachers’ lack of intrinsic motivation is a feeling of helplessness: What can they do? They have illiterate children to which they are expected to teach multivariate calculus, and it is just not happening.
So there are a number of things people have done – I’ve done some work on computer assisted teaching and on tracking teacher attendance. I’ve also done some work with Pratham [an Indian NGO] on below-remedial education such as reading programs. Along those lines we are now working on ways to cut the curriculum into pieces that are achievable by people at various levels. Maybe it is not rocket science, but children will be able to learn and teachers will be able to teach if the goal is achievable. In part, a lot of these countries have inherited curricula that are really colonial curricula designed to take the elite among the native children and teach them enough of what they need to become tax officials or something. It’s often completely not relevant.