News and Research 23

Five innovative education trends from Korea  Education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality. It also lays the basis for sustained growth.  Better schooling investments raise national income growth rates.  In nearly all countries, though to varying degrees, educational progress has lagged for groups that are disadvantaged due to low income, gender, disability or ethnic and/or linguistic affiliation.  However, there is an on-going education revolution occurring…

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Giving our children a great education: five lessons from South Korea  More people are in school now than ever before. Globally, in 1900, the average level of schooling was less than two years. It was just over two years in 1950, more than seven years in 2000, but it is projected to grow to 10 years by 2050. This is a more than five-fold increase in a century and a half…

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China: World Bank supports early childhood education in Yunnan  The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $50 million loan today to help improve the access and quality of early childhood education in Yunnan province in southwest China…

Early Childhood Development in Tonga: Baseline Results from the Tongan Early Human Capability Index  Early Childhood Development in Tonga offers a comprehensive assessment of early child development across Tonga using the Tongan Early Human Capability Index instrument. The data has information on more than 6,600 children, ages three to five, living across 36 inhabited islands, and reported for 129 communities. On the basis of population figures from the Tongan census data collection provided by the Tonga Department of Statistics, 81 percent of three- to five-year-olds participated in the Tongan Early Human Capability Index. The report details the development of the instrument used to collect the child development data to ensure cultural validity and local relevance, while still capturing the fundamental aspects of child development that are consistent across countries and cultures. As well as the development of the instrument, other countries will also be interested in learning about h the method of data collection across a country with remote and isolated islands using an innovative partnership between health and education. Using existing systems and community governance structures, the data was not only collected but also disseminated back to communities to raise awareness and prompt community and government mobilization to support early child development. The process of developing and implementing the Tongan Early Human Capability Index across Tonga helped build national and district capacity, and is encouraging the establishment of community-based supports for children. Researchers, policy makers, and practitioners as well as advocates for the development and enhancement of systems to monitor early child development worldwide will find this publication highly significant…

PEARL of the pacific shines  PEARL, the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Project, is a World Bank program that helps prepare children for school through play-based activities led by parents and communities. It also trains teachers on effective teaching practices for early reading and writing. Now in its third year of implementation, initial results of PEARL’s pilot phase in Tonga show improved teaching practices and reading outcomes for children. The project is also supporting school readiness and early grade reading in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.  Find out about the latest PEARL teacher workshop here…

What the world can learn from the latest PISA test results  Football fans must wait four years between World Cups. Education nerds get their fill of global competition every three. The sixth Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of the science, maths and reading skills of 15-year-olds from across the world, was published by the OECD club of mainly rich countries on December 6th. Its results have telling lessons for policymakers worldwide…

The political economy of teacher management in decentralized Indonesia  Indonesia faces serious challenges in the number, cost, quality, and distribution of teachers. This paper examines the role of political economy factors in producing these challenges and shaping efforts to resolve them. It argues that the challenges have their origins in the way in which political and bureaucratic elites have for decades used the school system to accumulate resources, distribute patronage, mobilize political support, and exercise political control. This orientation has meant that teacher numbers, quality, and distribution have been managed to maximize flows of rents and votes from schools to the elite, lubricate patronage and political networks, and ensure that elites maintain political control rather than maximize educational performance and equity. The fall of the New Order, the authoritarian and centralized regime that ruled Indonesia from 1965 to 1998, led to efforts to change this situation, but these have had little impact so far. The paper concludes by assessing what can be done by proponents of teacher management reform in this context to promote better outcomes…

Books or Laptops? The Cost-Effectiveness of Shifting from Printed to Digital Delivery of Educational Content  Information and communication technologies, such as laptops, can be used for educational purposes as they provide users with computational tools, information storage and communication opportunities, but these devices may also pose as distractors that may tamper with the learning process. This paper presents results from a randomized controlled trial in which laptops replaced traditional textbook provision in elementary schools in high poverty communities in Honduras in 2013 through the program Educatracho. We show that at the end of one school year, the substitution of laptops for textbooks did not make a significant difference in student learning. We additionally conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis, which demonstrated that given the low marginal costs of digital textbook provision, the substitution of three additional textbooks in the program (for a total of five) would guarantee computers to be more cost-effective than textbooks. Therefore, textbook substitution by laptops may be a cost-effective manner to provide classroom learning content…

Disrupting Education? Experimental Evidence on Technology-Aided Instruction in India  We present experimental evidence on the impact of a technology-aided after-school instruction program on learning outcomes in middle school grades in urban India, using a lottery that provided students with a voucher to cover program costs. A key feature of the program was its ability to individually customize educational content to match the level and rate of progress of each student. We find that lottery winners had large increases in test scores of 0.36σ in math and 0.22σ in Hindi over just a 4.5-month period. IV estimates suggest that attending the program for 90 days would increase math and Hindi test scores by 0.59σ and 0.36σ respectively. We find similar absolute test score gains for all students, but the relative gain was much greater for academically-weaker students because their rate of learning in the control group was close to zero. We show that the program precisely targets instruction to students’ preparation level, thus catering effectively to the very wide variation in student learning levels within a single grade. The program was highly cost-effective, both in terms of productivity per dollar and unit of time. Our results suggest that well-designed technology-aided instruction programs can sharply improve productivity in delivering education…

The Effects of Computers on Children’s Social Development and School Participation: Evidence from a Randomized Control Experiment  Concerns over the perceived negative impacts of computers on social development among children are prevalent but largely uninformed by plausibly causal evidence. We provide the first test of this hypothesis using a large-scale randomized control experiment in which more than one thousand children attending grades 6-10 across 15 different schools and 5 school districts in California were randomly given computers to use at home. Children in the treatment group are more likely to report having a social networking site, but also report spending more time communicating with their friends and interacting with their friends in person. There is no evidence that computer ownership displaces participation in after-school activities such as sports teams or clubs or reduces school participation and engagement…

Student and Parent Perspectives on Higher Education Financing: Findings from Focus Groups on Income-Share Agreements  Income-share agreements (ISAs) are financing instruments that allow students to fund their college educations in exchange for a fixed portion of their future earnings for a set time period. Many focus group participants appreciated the insurance ISAs offer—payments are always a fixed share of income, even for students with lower-than-expected incomes. Others disliked the idea of potentially paying back more than they would under a loan if they earned a high income. Participants who valued the freedom of adjusted payments based on income preferred ISAs. Participants who focused on prepaying and completing financial obligations quickly preferred loans. Nearly all participants favored shorter periods of time to repay—for an ISA or private student loan—even if it meant they owed more per month…

How Federal Support Could Boost Private School Choice Programs  Despite recent public backlash to centralizing efforts, the federal government’s long-standing approach to supporting charter schools suggests a way for the new administration to support private school choice. The Trump administration should propose a new initiative called the Diversity and Choice Incentive Demonstration program, which would aim to create a diversity of high-quality, high-demand, highly accountable programs under state school choice programs. If the federal government can keep ambitions modest, focus on increasing supply, and add an accountability element, it could play a constructive role as states embrace private school choice…

The Problem with School Choice: Why using competition to improve the education market isn’t so simple  When President-elect Donald Trump tapped Betsy DeVos as his pick for U.S. Secretary of Education, he triggered a debate over whether widespread school choice — like the voucher system that DeVos supports — would really boost student achievement across the country…

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