So, you are about to start field research in education. Whether you are planning a randomized control trial or a quasi-experiment, hopefully these tips may help!
Devote time and energy towards recruiting and training enumerators (your survey personnel). Someone once said that training enumerators is 95% of the battle in conducting good field research. I would argue that that would be dramatically underestimating its importance. The enthusiasm and perseverance of the enumerators makes or breaks all the hard work that has gone into designing the experiment. And so, in general, devoting at least a week to training them and letting them pilot the tool is essential. I find that reminding enumerators of the higher purpose behind the study really helps as well – in a small way, our shared work is helping improve literacy and numeracy outcomes for children across the world and that’s something that they should rightfully take pride in.
Message from Gero Carletto (Manager, LSMS)
It has been a busy few months for the LSMS team! Together with several Italian and African institutions, we recently launched the Partnership for Capacity Development in Household Surveys for Welfare Analysis. The initiative cements a long-term collaboration to train trainers from regional training institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa to harmonize survey data and promote the adoption of best practices in household surveys across the region (see below for more details). In addition, we have contributed to several international conferences and meetings, such as the Annual Bank Conference on Africa (featured below), where we witnessed the creative use of the data we helped collect and disseminate. Finally, LSMS was part of a documentary on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) called The Crowd & The Cloud. The fourth episode featured our very own Talip Kilic and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, working hand in hand to produce household and farm-level panel data, which have been game changers in informing government policymaking and investment decisions, as well as in advancing the methodological frontier. We look forward to many more exciting quarters as we continue to work with our partners to improve the household survey landscape!
Designing programs and policies to eliminate extreme poverty and boost the income of the bottom 40% of the world’s population requires reliable data. The data is gathered through using household surveys that typically collect information on consumption and expenditure on a comprehensive set of 300 to 600 items in the household. A list of items includes anything that a household potentially consumes, for example, typical items like maize, milk, and soap, as well as rare items like mustard.
Message from Gero Carletto (Manager, LSMS)
I would like to take this opportunity to remember Hans Rosling, a friend and supporter of the LSMS. I don’t need to tell you about his contagious enthusiasm for data or his masterful use of visualization tools to communicate statistics. I can’t say I knew Hans that well, but over the years, even if only based on sporadic interactions, I came to appreciate him both as a person and a scientist. I met him for the first time in 2013 and still remember the flabbergasted look on his face when Kathleen Beegle and I told him that the core LSMS team consisted of only four part-time staff. He was astounded to find out that we were so small, yet we looked so big. And, of course, being the visualization maestro that he was, he immediately came up with his own visual representation of the LSMS with a tool he had at his disposal at that moment: his hand!
From that day on, every time we met, he greeted me with his "LSMS hand." To this day, it remains a good, and fun, memory of Hans.
The LSMS team continues to support the World Bank's pledge to collaborate with the 78 poorest countries to collect high-quality national household survey data every three years, to better inform investments and policies to eradicate extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. A big part of this effort involves improving data collection methods in key areas. Toward that end, under the aegis of the World Bank’s Household Survey Working Group, we have developed a methodological research plan that focuses on welfare, gender, agriculture, and data processing/dissemination. Work is underway, and LSMS is collaborating with UNESCO, ILO, FAO, and other international organizations to establish standards and validate methods for data collection. As part of this effort, at a recent expert consultation at our Center for Development Data in Rome (hosted with FAO), representatives from development agencies and national statistical offices agreed on draft guidelines for collecting data on food consumption. Currently, there are no internationally agreed-upon standards for household consumption and expenditure surveys, so bringing this agenda forward can greatly improve the quality and comparability of global poverty, food security, and nutrition data.
New Data from Niger and Uganda!Niger: The data from wave 2 of the Niger Enquête Nationale sur les Conditions de Vie des Ménages et l'Agriculture (ECVMA 2014) are now available. This panel dataset follows from the 2011 survey; 3,614 of the original 3,859 households were re-interviewed. The ECVMA is implemented in collaboration with the Niger Institut National de la Statistique (INS).
Uganda: The Uganda National Panel Survey (UNPS) 2013/14 data are also available. This round follows from the 2005/06, 2009/10, 2010/11, and 2011/12 rounds and includes 3,119 households. The UNPS is implemented in collaboration with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.
DNA Fingerprinting, Drones and Remote Sensing in EthiopiaCGIAR-Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA) implemented two data experiments in collaboration with LSMS, the World Bank, and the Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency. One experiment examined data accuracy on measuring improved sweet potato varietal adoption. It compared three household-based methods against DNA fingerprinting benchmark. These included: (i) farmer elicitation, (ii) farmer elicitation using visual-aid, and (iii) enumerator elicitation using visual-aid. Visual-aid protocols were better than farmer elicitation, but still far below the benchmark estimates. Another experiment focused on crop residue coverage measurement. It compared four survey-based (interviewee and enumerator estimations as well as use of visual-aid protocol) and two aerial (drones' images and remote sensing) methods against a line-transect benchmark. The results ranked measurement options for survey practitioners and researchers in conservation agriculture.
Countries in which firms were surveyed for initial round of “Future of Business Survey”
The shared goal of this work is to help policymakers, researchers, and businesses to better understand business sentiment, and to leverage a digital platform to provide a unique source of information.
Periodically one comes across press reports asking general questions of this sort, such as this one from Germany's Deutsche Welle news service: Can tech help solve some of Africa's education problems? Of course, 'Africa' is a rather large place. Related generalizations (while catnip for headline writers, especially those outside the continent) obviously can obscure as much as they illuminate, perpetuating certain stereotypes of Africa as a single, monolithic place with certain common characteristics.(Binyavanga Wainaina's satirical How To Write About Africa remains sadly spot on in too many instances.)
That said, while the impulse from some corners to refer to 'Africa' may be both unfortunate but nevertheless predictable, being asked this sort of question at least provides an opportunity to unpack this question in ways that are (hopefully) useful and interesting. The EduTech blog was conceived in part, and in a decidedly modest way, to help direct the gaze of some folks to some of the interesting questions and challenges being addressed in different ways in different communities in Africa related to ICT use in education by groups who are, along the way, coming up with some interesting answers and solutions.
The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the arm of the United Nations charged with collecting global data related to education (and some other sectors as well), recently came out with a report that provides some useful data that collectively can help outline the general shape of some of what is happening across the African continent when it comes to the availability and use of educational technologies. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Comparative Analysis of Basic e-Readiness in Schools is certainly not the first such report that has taken a continent-wide perspective, but it is notable in a number of regards -- not only because it is the most recent such effort, but also because it is intended as a precursor to more regular data, systematic data collection efforts going forward.
Written by Peter Wallet (with the assistance of Beatriz Valdes Melgar), the report presents data and related analysis from a survey co-sponsored by UIS, the Korea Education and Research Information Service (KERIS) and the Brazilian Regional Center for Studies on the Development of the Information Society (CETIC.br -- the group responsible for the annual Survey of ICT and Education in Brazil). The report notes that, unfortunately, "data on ICT in education in the region are sparse. Collecting more and better quality statistics will be a priority in the post-2015 development agenda given the growing role of ICT in education. In response, the UIS is working with countries to establish appropriate mechanisms to process and report data, and to better measure the impact of technology on the quality of education." With that caveat and announcement out of the way, the report then utilizes the UIS Guide to Measuring Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Education as a framework with which to examine what could be discovered about the existence of related national policies, data about learner-computer ratios, school electrification and connectivity, and ICT-related instruction and curricula in ways consistent with other regional reports that the UIS has published on Asia, Latin America and a number of Arab countries. (Here's a list of international surveys of this sort from UIS and others for anyone who might be interested, as well as some general information about efforts of this sort.)
Some selected highlights:
Despite hundreds of millions spent on more and better household surveys across Africa in recent decades, we only have a very rough idea about the levels and trends in income poverty and inequality in sub-Saharan Africa. Many reasons contribute to this unfortunate state of affairs.
If you've ever been involved in discussions about current uses of technology in education -- and, given that you are currently reading a post on the World Bank's EduTech blog, it's probably safe to assume that you have -- you've probably noticed that, at some point in the back-and-forth, someone will inevitably be unable to resist talking about what's coming next. The history of technology use in education is, in part, a history of predictions about the use of technology in the future.
For the past few decades, many people around the world have almost instinctively looked toward Asia to get glimpses and insight into what the next wave of consumer technologies might look like and do, and how young people might use them. From the 'computer nerds' who frequented the Akihabara section of Tokyo in the 1980s to the young Filipinos whose affinity for SMS earned their country its designation as the 'texting capital of the world' around the turn of the century to today's designation of Indonesia as the 'social media capital of the world', the center of gravity for emerging uses of new technologies by young people has often been in the East. It is indeed no coincidence that the World Bank has co-sponsored an annual event bringing education policymakers to Seoul each fall to help discuss and plan for their country's potential uses of new technologies in schools in the future.
Of course, the stereotypically tech-savvy, mobile-phone wielding, hyper-connected youth in the big cities of East Asia, reviewing vocabulary on their smartphones while commuting on the subway or studying to the wee hours of the night on broadband connections at home, occupy one end of a very wide and diverse spectrum. Rural youth for whom the Internet is more aspiration than avocation and whose schools may not even have electricity, let alone a computer, or for whom 'computer time' means the two hours a month spent in a crowded school computer lab learning how to use a word processing program while waiting, waiting, waiting for their desperately slow Internet connection to bring up a single web page: Such young people and circumstances represent the reality of current technology use in education across Asia as well.
If we hypothesize that many future uses of technology in education might first appear in Asia, where might we want to look to get some first glimpses as what is likely to come to our own schools (wherever they may be)? If you want to know what a place might look like tomorrow, a good place to start might be by looking at what things look like there today. With that in mind:
How and to what extent are countries across Asia currently utilizing information and communication technologies (ICTs) in their education systems?
Two recent publications from UNESCO provide much useful data and documentation to help those trying to come up with possible answers to this question.
Corporations do them monthly.
Presidents and Prime Ministers check them daily.
Surveys and polls. They drive decision making across all sorts of organizations, corporations, governments and even palaces. Polls inform a range of strategies, whether related to how countries build support for reform, to how organizations move the needle on behavior change (think smoking, HIV, and drunk driving), to how companies choose the colors of a box of cereal and decide on the jingo that is intended to sell that cereal (crafted specifically to never leave your memory)!