Approaches and Resources for Improved Student Outcomes: Evidence from Brazil

Published in Social Science Research Network (Working Paper), 2022

Recommended citation: Gupta, Vansh, Approaches and Resources for Improved Student Outcomes: Evidence from Brazil (March 20, 2023).

SSRN Working Paper

This dissertation seeks to understand the determinants of the competitive advantage generated by strategic choices at schools across the world. I look at data from the World Management Survey of ~1000 schools, and using the framework developed by Jorge Guzman, I analyze the value of the schools’ resources in generating a competitive advantage based on students’ performance in those schools.


It has been demonstrated widely that learning, rather than schooling, drives economic growth, improved individual earnings, and reduced inequality in the developing world. Although a high proportion of children in Brazil have access to schooling, evidence from PISA tests reveals that more than three-quarters of Brazilian youth reach the age of 15 without being able to perform at the lowest level of competence in reading and mathematics. This research paper aims to study approaches that schools and municipalities in Brazil can implement, given their current resources, to provide better student learning outcomes, lower dropout and failure rates, and increase passing rates. The Strategic Treatment Effects (STE) framework is utilized to examine the resources that maximize benefits of each approach for these outcomes. This research studies the benefits of two distinct approaches implemented by a municipality: focusing on providing a variety of physical resources in schools, and focusing on providing highly-trained human capital in schools. The results demonstrate that there exists a significant amount of variation in the distribution of benefits across different approaches, and improving human capital is a more robust approach than focusing on improving physical capital across outcomes. I discover that such variation may compel policymakers to face a trade-off while choosing the optimal approach for their municipality, and suggest how the framework can be used to eliminate the trade-off and make the optimal decision. The findings have implications for policy and practice in education in Brazil, and suggest directions for future research.

This is an independent research project, and is a work in progress.