The Economist recently published an article about the promise of technology to improve the quality of education in low- and middle-income countries. It gives a balanced view of technology’s potential: It isn’t “a substitute for well-qualified, motivated teachers” and in order to work, “tech innovations need the acceptance of teachers and administrators.” But it can help teachers to manage classrooms with students at dramatically different learning levels, and it can help administrators to monitor teacher performance. The examples in the articles are backed up by high-quality studies of the impact of educational technology on student learning.
Poverty is a complex concept. A widespread view argues that important aspects of poverty cannot be measured in monetary terms – in fact, to successfully address poverty, we need to measure it in all its facets. The recent release of the 2018 edition of the Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report contains Global measures of multidimensional poverty have a rich history, a prominent example being the annual Global MPI produced by the United Nations Development Programme with the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative.
Happy World Teachers’ Day! No part of the school experience has greater potential to set students on a path to success than a great teacher. Likewise, researchers are constantly seeking to learn how education systems can help students learn the most from their teachers. Here are 10 studies from recent months on helping teachers to be their best.
Labels matter. Girls who are reminded of stereotypes about how girls perform in math do worse on math exams (in some circumstances). Publicly revealing the caste of students in India led to worse performance of students from castes that were traditionally lower in the caste hierarchy. In the U.S., posting a banner with vegetables in the form of cartoon characters increased schoolchildren’s consumption of vegetables by 90 percent. These are all forms of labeling. New research suggests that labeling matters in school scholarships – merit-based versus needs-based – as well.
In most economies, parents would like to see their children have a higher standard of living, and with it a better life, than they had themselves. When children are asked, they too tend to consider their parents a natural benchmark to compare their economic progress against (Goldthorpe, 1987; Hoschschild, 2016, Chetty at al., 2017). A simple measure that captures this notion of progress is the percentage of children who managed to surpass their parents, which we will refer to as absolute mobility. Chetty et al. (2017) find that the United States did exceptionally well by this measure for the generations born in the 1940s and 50s, when over 90 percent of children managed to do better than their parents in terms of income. Absolute mobility in the United States has since faded to around 50 percent for the current generation. How has absolute mobility fared elsewhere in the world? In which economies do children have the best chances to improve upon their parents? Are the highest rates of absolute mobility observed in economies that are starting from a low base?
In a sector where a proliferation of research seemingly has contributed at least as much to confusion as to progress, the 2018 World Development Report (WDR), Learning to Realize Education’s Promise sheds new light, and points towards fresh, hopeful pathways forward. It is a landmark contribution.
“Education for all” was the seductive promise of the millennium. Yet all too many children are attending school without acquiring even basic literacy or numeracy. Why?
In chapter 1 of book 1 of Adam Smith’s foundational economics book, The Wealth of Nations, he explains the concept of the division of labor. He uses the example of a pin factory.
To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labour has been very often taken notice of, the trade of a pin-maker: a workman not educated to this business (which the division of labour has rendered a distinct trade, nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labour has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty.
“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it” Lord Kelvin
Despite the recent proliferation of standardized testing in education, there is still a significant number of countries that oppose it. I’ve heard many arguments against standardized testing from policy makers, teachers and school directors, but two of them seem persuasive at first glance. The first one is that the test’s main purpose is to hold teachers and school directors accountable, that is, to reward and punish them based on students’ performance and—per tests’ opponents—this is unfair. The second is that since standardized testing assesses few subject areas, it redistributes attention and resources to these subjects in detriment of other equally important areas of the curriculum. These are valid points, but, as I argue below, they do not justify incurring the very high cost of not testing.