MineduLAB: Innovation for the improvement of educational policy

10 November 2016

Despite its short existence, MineduLAB has convened prestigious policy makers and academics nationally and internationally, and involved the Ministry of Education’s implementing areas, in an innovation initiative from within the public sector. With 10 innovations in the portfolio, MineduLAB seeks to address priority problems for educational policy, drawing on lessons from the field of behavioral economics. MineduLAB has achieved significant results in the very short term and at a low cost. In recognition of this, MineduLAB was names the “One to Watch Peruvian Think Tank of the Year 2016”, awarded the magazine PODER and On Think Tanks.

MineduLAB si a cost-effective innovation laboratory focused on the use and generation of rigorous evidence in the service of public policy. Located within the Office of Monitoring and Strategic Evaluation (OSEE) of the Ministry of Education (Minedu) in Peru, this think tank seeks to identify innovative interventions informed by scientific evidence to address priority problems in the education sector. Since its inception in 2013, it has served as an institutional space in which academia and policymakers converge to develop innovative ideas that can be tested and then decide their implementation at the national level.

Expand your mind! A simple intervention that changes the mentality and the life of the students Expands your Mind! Is a neuroscience-based project that suggests that a student's theories about his own intelligence affect how he responds to academic and personal challenges. Students with a growth mindset believe they can become smarter. Thus, they become motivated and try harder, and this attitude translates into a greater achievement of learning. The intervention consisted in the reading and discussion of a scientific article in class, which explains the malleability of the brain and encourages students to strive to grow their intelligence. Then the students write a text in the form of a letter with what they learned in the session and finally, they elaborate a mural for the classroom with the letters and a poster that summarizes the main ideas. The students exposed to this treatment achieved better results in standardized testsInspired by the work of international laboratories such as the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) of the United Kingdom or the Social and Behavioral Science Team in the United States, the MineduLAB focuses on new interventions or modifications to the existing policy incorporating principles of behavioral economics to cause significant and sustainable effects.The innovations in which MineduLAB works involve different actors (students, teachers, directors, parents), prioritizing those that seek to impact on behaviour, and are often simple, very low-cost interventions.

Expand your mind! A simple intervention that changes the mind-frame and life of Students Expand your mind!

Evidence-based neuroscience suggests that the theories that a student has about his own intelligence affect the way he or she responds to academic and personal challenges. Students with a growth mindset believe they can become smarter. So, they are motivated and work harder, and this attitude results in mayor learning achievements.

The intervention consisted in reading and discussing a scientific article in class explaining the malleability of the brain and encouraging students to make an effort to grow their intelligence. Then the students drafted a text in the form of a letter presenting their own learning from the session and, finally, they produce a mural for the classroom and a poster that summarises its main ideas.

Students exposed to this treatment scored higher on standardised math tests.

A crucial feature of the laboratory is the importance of rigorous evaluation of the innovations tried. The evaluation makes it possible to determine the effectiveness of the interventions before deciding whether they can be escalated to public policy. Thus, the innovations are piloted and evaluated under experimental methods, ensuring the highest methodological standard.

The design and evaluations are carried out jointly with national and international researchers of recognised prestige in the fields of education economics. Evaluations conducted by the laboratory use administrative data that already exists in the ministry, allowing for the production of timely and quality evidence at a very low cost.

The MineduLAB is an institutional space that nourishes the newest ideas of the academic sector, while promoting the involvement of the different Minedu offices in the innovation process. Since it is based within the Ministry, the laboratory has the capacity to ensure the involvement and participation of the areas in the different stages of the policy process – including those involved in the design to the evaluation and management of the evidence.

In fact, most of the innovations that were tested were recommended by the implementing areas themselves. Their involvement throughout the intervention cycle has allowed them to take ownership of the innovation, ensuring their commitment to scaling them in an effective manner and incorporating lessons from those that do not turn out to be successful.

In this way, MineduLAB is the first innovation laboratory that generates institutional learning in a systematic way in Peru and Latin America in the eduction sector. Its implementation is already being recognised as a success in public policy and the lessons learned from this process are being used by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), who provided technical assistance for the implementation of the laboratory and in the development of similar initiatives related to violence against women, social development and the environment from Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.

In sum, MineduLAB’s experience shows that evidence based innovation from within the public sector is not only possible, but necessary to establish policies of proven effectiveness, allowing the laboratory to have the potential to benefit millions of people in the educational communities of Peru.

MineduLAB’s challenges for the following years are its consolidation as a tool for the generation of rigorous evidence and for the elaboration of proposals for new education policies. Also, the laboratory faces the challenge of exploring innovations in new areas of interest, such as improving access and coverage of the initial level, improving pedagogical practice and teaching performance, the use of ICT in the classroom, ge neration of a communication channel cost-effective with parents, among others.