I just returned from the Education World Forum with its tied-in British Education Technology Trade (BETT) show. This is an annual, London-based conference focusing on the use of technology for education, bringing together 63 ministers of education from across the world, along with educators, politicians, researchers, and lots of executives from firms producing some of the most innovative products and solutions on the use of technology in schools and school systems.
We all love good news. This simple fact of life explains a well known syndrome known as publication bias: studies with positive results are more likely to be published than those with negative results. But the syndrome goes beyond academic publications.
In education as well as in other areas of public policy, the pressure to show results (and to justify budgets) creates strong incentives to report on positive stories over and above those showing a lack of results. It is, indeed, easier and more pleasant to write about what works than about what doesn’t work.
A few months ago we launched a new note series, "Evidence to Policy," (or E2P for short) to present in non-technical language results from impact evaluation studies the World Bank has conducted of human development programs. From the start, I wanted to ensure that E2P remains a vehicle for evidence-based development policy and not a vehicle for intellectual bragging and biased reporting.
I was in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh recently. Madhya Pradesh, or MP, as most Indians know it – is a big state in the middle of the country. It also has some of the poorest human development indicators in the country.
Some distance from Gwalior, we get off at a large village on the side of the road and start walking away from the highway towards the villages in the interior. Eventually, we cross a stream and reach the last village before a hill stops the road from going any further.
We are in a tribal village, with silos for community grain, a recently constructed Panchayat (the local governing body) hall and a decrepit school. The schools have been closed down after the walls collapsed and snakes were discovered in the classroom. The teachers now hold classes in the temple under a large banyan tree.