Many low- and middle-income countries lag far behind high-income countries in educational access and student learning. Policymakers must make tough choices about which investments to make to improve education with limited resources. Although hundreds of education interventions have been rigorously evaluated, comparing their impacts is challenging.

This paper provides the most recent and comprehensive review of the literature on effective education programs, with a novel emphasis on cost-effectiveness, covering the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions from over 200 impact evaluations across 52 countries. The analysis uses a unified measure –learning-adjusted years of schooling (LAYS) – that combines access and quality and compares gains to an absolute, cross-country standard. The results identify programs and policies that can be orders of magnitude more cost-effective than business-as-usual approaches, enabling policymakers to improve education outcomes substantially more efficiently.