News and research 12 – October 3, 2016

 

The impact of education programmes on learning and school participation

We synthesised evidence from 216 programmes reaching 16 million children across 52 L&MICs. The results demonstrate there are no ‘magic bullets’ to ensure high-quality education for all, but there are lessons to be learned for improving future education programmes…   There is fairly strong and consistent evidence that cash transfer programmes have relatively large positive effects on school participation outcomes, while structured pedagogy programmes have the largest and most consistent positive effects on learning outcomes…

Investing in school readiness: an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of early childhood education

This paper presents evidence on the cost-effectiveness of early childhood education pathways in rural Indonesia. It documents the existence of substantial differences in school readiness between 6 to 9 year old children. Using detailed enrollment histories, it unpacks whether and how early education experiences explain these gaps. The analysis considers not only the sequence of services children enroll in, but also the age at which they enroll and the duration for which they enroll. The differences in primary school test scores between a child who has no early education exposure and a child who completes a full sequence at the developmentally appropriate age are 0.42 standard deviations in language and 0.43 standard deviations in mathematics, roughly equivalent to an additional 0.9 to 1.2 years of primary schooling. The paper analyzes the cost-effectiveness of various early education pathways in Indonesia to show that providing access to both playgroups and kindergartens to young children at developmentally appropriate ages can optimize public investments in early childhood education. The paper subjects the analysis to a variety of robustness checks, and concludes that children enrolled in play-based early education programs (playgroups) at age 3 or 4, followed by the country’s more academically structured programs (kindergartens) at age 5 or 6, are more likely to be ready for primary school than children who do not follow this sequence. Compulsory pre-primary education policy should consider incorporating both playgroups and kindergartens…

Gender gaps in cognitive and non-cognitive skills in early primary grades

This paper examines gender gaps in cognitive and non-cognitive skills among a sample of more than 10,000 children between the ages of 6 and 9 in rural Indonesia. In terms of cognitive skills, the analysis finds evidence of gender gaps favoring girls at each age in test scores of language (0.158-0.252 standard deviations) and mathematics (0.155-0.243 standard deviations) in the early years of primary school. Girls also perform significantly better than boys in non-cognitive skills, with higher scores on the social competence (0.086-0.247 standard deviations) and emotional maturity domains (0.213-0.296 standard deviations) of the Early Development Instrument, a finding consistent with research from high-income countries. Decomposition analyses are used to investigate the extent to which enrollment patterns in preschool and primary school as well as parenting practices contribute to these gender gaps in cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Standard decomposition approaches are extended to correct for selection on observables. The findings show that gender differences in enrollment patterns play a role in explaining gender gaps in test scores, while differences in parenting practices do not. However, the relative contribution of observed factors to gender gaps depends on the available quality of preschool services in the child’s village and whether the outcome of interest is cognitive or non-cognitive skills…

Those Flying Finns: Is it Saunas or Reading That Make the Difference?

I recently attended a conference in Stockholm, at which there were several Finns and a lot of discussion about the “Finnish Miracle,” in which Finland was found to score at the top on PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). PISA periodically tests representative samples of fifteen year olds in math, science, and reading. The Finnish Miracle became apparent in 2001, and has been talked to death since then. Much about what I heard at the conference was familiar. Finland is a small, homogeneous country in which teaching is an honored profession. I heard that Helsinki, the capital, hires 80 teachers a year, and gets thousands of applicants. Maybe these factors are all we need to know. However, I heard something else that I knew but had forgotten. Ten years before the Finnish PISA Miracle, there was an international test of reading, called the IEA Reading Literacy Study, which tested the reading skills of students ages 9 to 10 in 30 countries. The U.S. scored second on this test, behind- you guessed it – Finland. I looked it up, and discovered that the difference was huge. Finnish children scored 31% of a standard deviation ahead of the U.S…

Training Teachers on the Job What Works and How to Measure It

A significant body of research demonstrates that teachers and the quality of their teaching are crucial components of student learning. Many teachers in resource-poor environments have limited knowledge, skills, or motivation. Some impact evaluations have shown promising results from interventions to improve the quality of teaching. This paper reviews the existing body of evidence on what kinds of in-service teacher training interventions are most effective, and highlights the knowledge gaps. It reveals the dearth of detail on the nature of teacher training interventions and proposes a standard set of indicators—the In-Service Teacher Training Survey Instrument—for reporting on such programs as a prerequisite for understanding which interventions lead to improved student learning. Across a set of 26 programs with impact evaluations and student learning results, programs that provide complementary materials, focus on a specific subject, and include follow-up visits tend to show higher gains. Programs that use non-education professionals as trainers tend to have worse outcomes. Statistical power to identify these effects is limited, and use of these standard indicators in future impact evaluations will facilitate more precise inference…

The Economic Impact of Universities: Evidence from Across the Globe

We develop a new dataset using UNESCO source materials on the location of nearly 15,000 universities in about 1,500 regions across 78 countries, some dating back to the 11th Century. We estimate fixed effects models at the sub-national level between 1950 and 2010 and find that increases in the number of universities are positively associated with future growth of GDP per capita (and this relationship is robust to controlling for a host of observables, as well as unobserved regional trends). Our estimates imply that doubling the number of universities per capita is associated with 4% higher future GDP per capita. Furthermore, there appear to be positive spillover effects from universities to geographically close neighboring regions. We show that the relationship between growth and universities is not simply driven by the direct expenditures of the university, its staff and students. Part of the effect of universities on growth is mediated through an increased supply of human capital and greater innovation (although the magnitudes are not large). We find that within countries, higher historical university presence is associated with stronger pro-democratic attitudes…

Does one size fit all?  The impact of cognitive skills on economic growth

This paper analyzes the impact of cognitive skills on economic growth. Within a causal framework and using a new dataset on cognitive skills, we test for the first time for heterogeneous effects across countries and find significant differences in the effect of skills on growth across regions and by the economic level of countries. Using data on the share of the population with advanced and minimum skill levels, our results also indicate that high-income countries should focus on increasing the number of high skilled human capital, while countries from Sub-Saharan Africa would benefit more by investing in the development of basic skills…

Longitudinal Evaluation of the Mathematics Teacher Exchange: China-England research report

The Mathematics Teacher Exchange is a highly innovative programme that aims to foster a radical shift in primary mathematics teaching in England by learning from Shanghai mathematics education – a mastery approach to teaching and learning. The exchange is funded and managed by the Department for Education. The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) lead the implementation of the exchange through the national network of Maths Hubs and are actively engaged in developing, refining and deepening school and teachers’ understanding of Shanghai teaching for mastery…

Practice and issues of outsourcing of education: Cases from South Korea and Hong Kong

More and more governments use educational reforms as a tool to raise the competitiveness of their societies, and one shared feature of some of these reforms is privatization of public education. Countries in the Eastern and Western Europe alike, for instance, have implemented various educational reforms that allowed for, or promoted, privatization of education (Ball & Youdell, 2008; Patrinos, Barrera-Osorio, & Guàqueta, 2009). While privatization of education has received much academic attention, the new education privatization, in which the government financially supports the private sector’s participation in public education, has remained unexplored in many contexts (Burch, 2009), in particular in the East Asian context including South Korea and Hong Kong. Governments of South Korea and Hong Kong have circulated policy discourses which reconceptualise the private sector as a partner in public education for more than a decade. However, there has been little documentation of the actual practice of outsourcing of education delivery…

Does Firm Agglomeration Matter to Labor and Education of Local Children?

The firm agglomeration is often mentioned as an important factor for local economic growth. However, it is little known about whether the firm agglomeration can bring direct benefits for local children. In this paper, we attempt to examine the effects of the firm agglomeration on education and labor of local children in Vietnam. The firm agglomeration is measured by the firm revenue per capita at the district level. Although the firm agglomeration does not have significant effects on school enrolment, our study finds that firm agglomeration helps children improve the school quality (which is measured by the number of completed school grades). The firm agglomeration also reduces the probability to work for children. Interestingly, we find that firm agglomeration has a larger effect on girls than boys, and on disadvantageous groups of children such as rural, ethnic minorities, and those having lower education parents…

 

In Beijing, new Prize shines spotlight on heroes of girls’ and women’s education

Director-General Irina Bokova and the First Lady of China and UNESCO Special Envoy Professor Peng Liyuan jointly awarded the first UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education to laureates from Indonesia and Zimbabwe at a youthful ceremony staged in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on 6 June 2016…

Literacy in multilingual and multicultural contexts: Effective Approaches to Adult Learning

It showcases various best-practice examples of literacy programmes (governmental adult literacy programmes and programmes run by civil society organizations) that successfully use multilingual and multicultural approaches to teaching and learning…

Education in Thailand: An OECD-UNESCO Perspective
Thailand’s education system stands at a crossroads. Significant investment has widened access to education and the country performs relatively well in international assessments compared with its peers in Southeast Asia. But the benefits have not been distributed equally and the return on its investment in education is not as high as expected. This report encourages Thailand to focus on four areas in order to prepare students from all backgrounds to succeed in a fast-pace changing environment…

6 December 2016, Global launch: PISA 2015 Results: Student performance in science, reading and mathematics, and school and system characteristics.

And on the lighter side…The Economics of Brushing Teeth

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