Despite health-promotion and disease-prevention efforts, we are all at risk of catastrophic health events, which can strike at any moment, in the form of a traffic injury, a newly discovered tumor, a brain hemorrhage, or another sudden affliction affecting us or someone we love. When such events occur, we may abruptly face life-and-death situations that teach us first-hand the critical importance of timely access to medical care.
When I start discussing evaluations with government partners, and note the need for us to follow and survey over time a control group who did not get the program, one of the first questions I always get is “Won’t it be really hard to get them to respond?”. I often answer with reference to a couple of case examples from my own work, but now have a new answer courtesy of a new paper on testing for attrition bias in experiments by Dalia Ghanem, Sarojini Hirshleifer and Karen Ortiz-Becerra.
As part of the paper, they conduct a systematic review of field experiments with baseline data published in the top 5 economics journals plus the AEJ Applied, EJ, ReStat, and JDE over the years 2009 to 2015”, covering 84 journal articles. They note that attrition is a common problem, with 43% of these experiments having attrition rates over 15% and 68% having attrition rates over 5%. The paper then has discussion over what the appropriate tests should be to figure out whether this is a problem. But I wanted to highlight this panel from Figure 1 in their paper, which plots the absolute value of the difference in attrition rates by treatment and control. They note “64% have a differential rate that is less than 2 percentage points, and only 10% have a differential attrition rate that is greater than 5 percentage points.” That is, attrition rates aren’t much different for the control group.
It must be great to have access to so much information and data about so many things.
Yes, that's certainly a perk of the job, I responded, although it can be overwhelming at times.
What's more interesting, and exciting, at least to me (and, truth be told, overwhelming as well), is the access to so many fascinating questions.
(For what it's worth: Most of the information and data with which we are traditionally associated are actually 'open' these days, freely accessible to anyone with a web browser as a result of our access to information policy).
Here's a (lightly anonymized, slightly disguised) sample of questions that arrived in my in-box just today:
- For the first time in a few decades, our country is about to build lots of new schools: Should we be designing them any differently in order to accommodate the use of new technologies?
- What are some compelling examples of how 'edtech' has been 'scaled up' to promote greater equity and inclusiveness that are relevant to our country?
- We want to put all our textbooks online -- how should we do this?
- We need to hire an expert in governance issues in education systems who can help us better understand the opportunities and challenges that new technologies will pose for us in the future: Can you suggest some related terms of reference, and a shortlist of candidates who speak our language and are familiar with operating contexts in our country and region?
- What specs should we include in our big new tender for tablets?
(By the time I've completed this blog post, I expect a few more will have been sent to me as well.)
Whether these should be the types of things we get questions about -- that's another matter. There are no bad questions ... but of course some questions are better than others. Before we attempt to respond to a specific information request, we first pause and consider if we are being asked the 'right question'.
In steering people to the 'right question', or at least to a better question (or, as we like to phrase it when we respond, 'That's a great question! And here's another question that you may also wish to consider ...'), we have concluded that it usually helps to be able to address the one that they have already posed.
To help with this, we are trying to better organize what we know, based on our own work and more generally, to better address the things that we -- and the 100+ governments with which we actively work around the world -- don't know.
As part of this process, we have developed a master list of master list of 50+ key topics related to the use of new technologies in education of potential operational relevance to the World Bank in its strategic advice, lending activities and research going forward. It is not meant to be comprehensive in its consideration of topics related to the use of technology in education, and does not represent a 'framework for how to think about edtech'. Instead, it seeks to document and organize related requests for information and advice into distinct categories. It is not based on what the World Bank has done and supported in the past, but rather on questions we receive related to what governments are looking to do in the future. Reasonable people can and will no doubt disagree about whether we are being asked the 'right' questions or not. (We have strong opinions on this ourselves!)
The People, Spaces, Deliberation blog has, after a long and happy run, been retired. We wanted to take a moment to share some highlights and let you know we are grateful for your loyal readership and the community we created together.
Countries in Africa are facing a conundrum according to a recent World Bank flagship report, “Facing Forward: Schooling for Learning in Africa.” Over the past 10 to 25 years, many have made tremendous progress in getting children into classrooms. Yet, while total enrollment has increased, in many of these same countries primary school completion rates have not.
Sub-Saharan Africa knows more than its fair share of disasters induced by natural hazards. The past few months alone have seen drought in the Horn of Africa, floods in Mali and Rwanda, and landslides in Ethiopia and Uganda. Between 2005 and 2015, the region experienced an average of 157 disasters per year, claiming the lives of roughly 10,000 people annually.
Before we begin new posts next week, here are the 10 Development Impact posts published in 2018 that were most popular (by number of page views).
9. What’s new in education research? Impact evaluations and measurement – January 2018 round-up
8. What do we learn from increasing teacher salaries in Indonesia? More than the students did.
7. The State of Development Journals 2018: Quality, Acceptance Rates, Review Times, and Representation
6. What’s the latest in development economics research? Microsummaries of 150+ papers from NEUDC 2018
5. GiveDirectly Three-Year Impacts, Explained
Since 2015, the Republic of Yemen has been overtaken by a brutal conflict that has resulted in massive casualties, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced families, substantial infrastructure damage, and hampered service delivery across both the economy and society. In total, according to the 2018 Humanitarian Needs Overview from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, approximately 22.2 million people, roughly 75 percent of the population, are in need of some manner of humanitarian or protection assistance.
- Travel no more than once per month.
- Despite number one above, participate in a World Bank mission to see how it really works.
- Despite numbers one and two above, get to Africa. It is a shame I have not been there yet.
- Master the WBG (World Bank Group) acronyms.
- Attend at least one seminar per week.
- Dedicate one day per week to research.
- Explain to the world why the global growth projections of the WB and IMF sometimes differ.
- Despite all of the above, continue to get my eight hours a night of sleep.
The Water Blog provided plenty to chew on if you’ve been following the interesting and insightful posts we published here in 2018.
Here's a rundown of some of 2018’s most popular blogs. From wastewater treatment, to water-energy nexus, to solar pumping, and to shared sanitation, what you liked reading on The Water Blog speaks volumes about the wide-ranging topics we’ve covered and the diverse perspectives we’ve brought to the global conversation on water and sanitation issues.