News and Research 234

Time to reopen the school gates | America’s failure to get millions of its children back to school is a national fiasco. This was a big week for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The elected board that runs Maryland’s biggest school district held its first in-person meeting since it closed its 208 schools more than 11 months ago. No one should accuse its eight members (a couple of whom attended remotely) of taking covid-19 lightly. Montgomery County, where your columnist’s three offspring attend (loosely speaking) public school, is on track to be the last of America’s 14,000 districts to return pupils to the classroom…

The benefits of acing China’s most important academic exam | High scorers in China’s university entrance exam (gaokao; 高考) go to better universities and earn higher wages (The Economist summary of the NBER working paper).

Global Cost of Inclusive Refugee Education | Education for all refugee children is within reach finds World Bank-UNHCR report | The average annual cost of educating refugees is less than 5 percent of public education expenditure in developing nations hosting 85 percent of the world’s refugees… “Wherever they are, children must go to school.  Education can help refugee children and youth to succeed despite the severe challenges they face,” said Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development, World Bank. “Providing quality education for all school-aged children in countries affected by fragility, conflict, or violence will require the international community and host governments to come together in the spirit of cost and responsibility sharing, but, as the report finds, it is within our reach”…

Educational Assessments in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond | Assessments, if used properly, can help us to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for years to come.

Building Social Cohesion in Ethnically Mixed Schools: An Intervention on Perspective Taking | We evaluate the impact of an educational program that aims to build social cohesion in ethnically mixed schools by developing perspective-taking ability in children. The program is implemented in Turkish elementary schools affected by a large influx of Syrian refugee children. We measure a comprehensive set of outcomes that characterize a cohesive school environment, including peer violence incidents, the prevalence of inter-ethnic social ties, and prosocial behavior. Using randomized variation in program implementation, we find that the program significantly lowers peer violence and victimization on school grounds. The program also reduces the likelihood of social exclusion and increases inter-ethnic social ties in the classroom. We find that the program significantly improves prosocial behavior, measured by incentivized tasks: treated students exhibit significantly higher trust, reciprocity, and altruism toward each other as well as toward anonymous out-school peers. We show that this enhanced prosociality is welfare improving from the ex-post payoff perspective. We investigate multiple channels that could explain the results, including ethnic bias, impulsivity, empathetic concern, emotional intelligence, behavioral norms, and perspective-taking. Children’s increased effort to take others’ perspectives emerges as the most robust mechanism to explain our results.

Education Finance in 2021 | Two-thirds of low- & lower-middle-income countries have cut their education budgets since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccinating Kids Against the Learning Loss of School Closures | Like millions of mothers around Latin America, Liliana Domador was forced to juggle a job, with the raising of and even teaching of her child as the Covid-19 pandemic closed down schools and afflicted the greatest interruption of in-class education in the region’s history…

Built to Last: Sustainability of Early Childhood Education Services in Rural Indonesia | Nakajima, Hasan,  Jung, Kinnell, Maika, Pradhan | This paper studies the sustainability of preschools established under a large-scale project in rural Indonesia. We returned to project villages three years after the project closed to understand why some preschools were able to sustain operations while others closed. We present four key findings. First, 92 per cent of preschools from the project remained open three years after project funding ended. Second, preschools planned for sustainability by taking into account six factors: preschool quality, finance, supplementary services, market condition, household wealth, and parental involvement. Third, each of these factors predicts sustainability after project closure. Finally, interviews with former teachers show that the few preschools that closed were those that struggled to find both the financial and human resources needed to continue operating. We discuss actionable lessons for the design and sustainability of future early childhood education projects.

Addressing cross-national generalizability in educational impact evaluation | Evaluation of educational programs has accelerated dramatically in the past quarter century. With this expansion has come clear methodological improvement involving randomized control studies and other approaches for establishing causation that considerably strengthen their internal validity. Such studies are, however, conducted within individual countries with the institutional structure of the schools and the national labor markets, and they are seldom replicated either within or across countries. A natural question is whether the results of an individual high-quality educational evaluation in one country can be reasonably applied in other countries. This paper focuses on existing research into differences across countries that, while generally impossible to incorporate into program evaluations, potentially have direct effects on key elements of policy and on the outcomes that can be expected. In particular, available cross-national studies on a variety of topics suggest using caution when generalizing evaluation results across countries, because student results are likely to vary systematically with a number of fundamental country-level institutional characteristics that are not explicitly considered in within-country evaluation analyses. Unfortunately, there is currently too little replication of basic research studies to provide explicit guidance on when and where cross-national generalizations are possible.

World Economic Forum | World Bank: COVID-19 school closures threaten women’s economic future | Evidence shows that one additional year of schooling increases women’s returns to education by 12% in comparison to 10% for men. Girls are currently at risk due to issues such as domestic violence, with UNESCO predicting that 11 million will not return to school post-pandemic. More investments and targeted support systems need to be in place to ensure young women have a solid education, write experts from the World Bank.