USAID Cost Measurement
While the field of international education has made great strides in recent years with raising the number and the quality of impact evaluations, their results would be more informative with associated cost data for these interventions. Policy makers and donors cannot make fully informed decisions about the best way to invest limited resources without information about the costs of achieving desired outputs and outcomes through different interventions or delivery strategies. Evidence on the cost of interventions is also critical for making responsible decisions about scaling and sustaining programs within country systems.
The cost of specific components of common interventions in the education sector, such as teacher training or the production of books, and how these costs vary in response to programmatic and contextual features, is poorly understood due to lack of associated cost data. Costs of these essential components of education delivery are frequently bundled with the cost of other components, and thus are not readily available for examination by policy makers. The USAID Center for Education cost measurement initiative works to establish systems and processes for capturing and analyzing the costs of education interventions, increases transparency to allow for the linkage of costs to outcomes, and enables value-for-money analysis, thus providing a pathway toward resource optimization across programs and contexts.
The Cost Reporting Guidance (2018) and the Cost Analysis Guidance (2020) for USAID-funded education activities build on the existing USAID systems and best practices with collection and analysis of cost data. These guidance notes lay the foundation for routinization of cost measurement as part of the ongoing improvement of the evidence base in the education sector, with the overarching objective of improving sustainability, planning and management, and overall value for money of USAID investments in the education sector.