DP12956 | The Lost Human Capital: Teacher Knowledge and Student Learning in Africa

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In many low income countries, teachers do not master the subject they are teaching and children learn little from attending school. Using unique data from nationally representative surveys from seven Sub-Saharan African countries, we propose a methodology to assess the effect of teacher knowledge on student learning when panel data on students are not available. We show that data on test scores of the current and the previous year’s teachers allows us to estimate a lower bound on the cumulative effect of teacher knowledge on student achievement. With further restrictions on the cumulative student achievement function we can also estimate bounds on both the contemporaneous effect of teacher content knowledge and the extent of fade out of the teachers’ impact in earlier grades. We use these structural estimates to answer two questions. To what extent can shortfalls in teachers’ content knowledge account for the large learning gap observed across countries? How much learning is lost because of misallocation?