There is a lot about primary education in India( there is also an interesting post by Naveen Mandava in the Indian Economy Blog. It has links to a number of empirical studies) in Abhijit Banerjee's article on New Developmental Economics. An excerpt:
"A wonderful example of delving into the bowels of the machine can be found in a recent paper by Esther Duflo and Stephen Ryan of mit and Rema Hanna of nyu. Seva Mandir, an ngo in Western India, had long been concerned about the fact that in many of the primary schools they run there were reports that teachers do not come to school. The problem was that these were one-teacher schools, so if the teacher was not there, no one other than the children and their parents would know. And they tended to be in relatively remote areas, so arranging for someone to routinely check on them was out of the question. What could they do?
When Seva Mandir explained this challenge to Duflo, who had worked with them before, she had a brain wave. Cameras were getting cheaper all the time. Why not tell the teacher to get a child to take a picture of him and the class at the beginning of each day and at the end, with a time-and-date stamp on each picture. That way you will know at least that he was there at two points in a given day. Seva Mandir agreed to give it a try; and to make the teachers take it seriously, they announced that salaries would be tied to the pictures: teachers would be paid 50 rupees for every day for which they had two pictures. The 50-rupee number was chosen to give a teacher who showed up for 20 days a month what he used to get under the old system (1,000 rupees). There was some concern that teachers would resist the new system, but on the whole it was surprisingly well received: the teachers liked it because it put their destiny in their own hands.
Duflo, Hanna, and Ryan carried out a randomized evaluation of this program. The results showed that teacher absences (measured by unannounced visits by monitors to both experimental and control schools) were 42 percent in the control schools and 22 percent in the schools where the cameras were being used—and at the end of the year, children in the camera schools performed much better on their exams. Moreover, given how responsive teachers seemed to be to the incentives, Duflo, Hanna, and Ryan concluded that it would be worth raising the daily payment by 5 rupees, to 55 rupees per day.
Seva Mandir considered the experiment a success, and the program continues. But now that they have seen the benefits of giving the teachers incentives, they have begun to wonder whether there are cheaper options, and ones that are more unobtrusive. The plan is to think of new ways to appeal to the teachers’ motivations. The last time I was at Seva Mandir, I watched Duflo, her colleague Sendhil Mullainathan from Harvard, and Neelima Khetan from Seva Mandir debating how teachers would react to being confronted by empty pages in a child’s notebook, left empty to show that the teacher was not there. I thought I saw a new economics being born. "
Webcast and interviews on Has the civilization gone too far?.
Some of Glenn Davis Stone's papers are here. The 2002 paper "Both sides now..." comes with a backgrounder. The papers that appeared in 'Current Anthropology" have comments by others at the end and Stone's responses. The paper "Agricultural deskkilling etc...' has comments by Ronald J. herring some of whose artcles appeared in Indian magazines.
Current Biology has an online article which gives a 'new' twist to the Cooperation puzzle. It may be online for a few more days
Title:Cooperation Peaks at Intermediate Disturbance
Authors:Michael A. Brockhurst, Angus Buckling, and Andy Gardner
Explaining cooperation is a challenge for evolutionary biology [1, 2]. Surprisingly, the role of extrinsic ecological parameters remains largely unconsidered. Disturbances [3, 4] are widespread in nature and have evolutionary consequences . We develop a mathematical model predicting that cooperative traits most readily evolve at intermediate disturbance. Under infrequent disturbance, cooperation breaks down through the accumulation of evolved cheats. Higher rates of disturbance prevent this because the resulting bottlenecks increase genetic structuring (relatedness [6, 7, 8]) promoting kin selection for cooperation. However, cooperation cannot be sustained under very frequent disturbance if population density remains below the level required for successful cooperation. We tested these predictions by using cooperative biofilm formation by the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens[9, 10]. The proportion of biofilm-forming bacteria peaked at intermediate disturbance, in a manner consistent with model predictions. Under infrequent and intermediate disturbance, most bacteria occupied the biofilm, but the proportion of cheats was higher under less frequent disturbance. Under frequent disturbance, many bacteria did not occupy the biofilm, suggesting that biofilm dwelling was not as beneficial under frequent versus intermediate disturbance. Given the ubiquity of disturbances in nature, these results suggest that they may play a major role in the evolution of social traits in microbes.