News and Research 249

From crisis to opportunity: Transforming education in Europe and Central Asia after COVID-19 | The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant damage to human capital development across Europe and Central Asia. Lengthy periods of school closure have resulted in major learning losses among school-age children, particularly those living in poverty and those from ethnic minorities.

Globally, the economic losses incurred by middle-income countries are estimated to be high as $6.8 trillion in labor earnings over the work life of current students – or 15 to 22 percent of current GDP. It is estimated that the lifetime incomes of secondary school graduates have been reduced by about $9,000. Learning losses are significant.

Action must be taken now to ensure that individuals and communities can recover from these impacts and that countries can build resilient education systems to withstand any similar shocks in the future.

In countries across Europe and Central Asia, responses by education policymakers to the pandemic have varied widely. Monitoring these responses, the World Bank is supporting countries in managing the effects of school closures, reopening schools, and recovering learning losses by building more resilient education systems after COVID-19.

Our new report, Learning Recovery after COVID-19 in Europe and Central Asia: Policy and Practice, shows how countries can manage the impacts by adopting the best lessons learned during the crisis, making structural policy reforms that increase learning for all students, and preparing their education systems for future shocks. The plan for transforming education in the region, both during and after the crisis, comprises three key stages… more

Uzbekistan Can Boost its Economic Growth through Strategic Investments in Education, say International Experts | At a policy forum organized by the Ministry of Public Education and the World Bank, along with senior Government officials, local and international experts, discussed the importance of education reform for Uzbekistan’s economic growth and human capital development. Dozens of foreign and local experts discussed the impact of education on economic growth and human capital development, as well as challenges and opportunities for implementing further reforms in Uzbekistan’s education sector. High-level government officials, including Mr. Abdujabor Abduvahitov, Presidential Advisor on Youth Policy, Education, Science, Healthcare and Sport, and Mr. Sherzod Shermatov, Minister of Public Education, were among keynote speakers of the Forum. More coverage:

Education reforms and adult skills: Evidence from Estonia | This paper studies the impact of education reforms in Estonia in the 1990s on adult skills using the OECD PIAAC surveys. Estonia implemented extensive education reforms in the early 1990s throughout Estonian-speaking schools while Russian-speaking schools were exposed to less comprehensive reforms, which were implemented later. A large minority of Estonia’s population at the time was enrolled in Russian-speaking schools providing a unique opportunity to measure the impact of education reforms on literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills among adults by comparing improvements in PIAAC performance among Estonian and Russian speakers. Difference-in-difference estimation suggests that the reforms led to an adult skill dividend of around 15 to 30 percent of a standard deviation. This translates to a wage (productivity) premium of 5 to 12 percent.

What do test scores really capture? Evidence from a large-scale student assessment in Mexico | This paper studies the relationship between test scores and cognitive skills using two longitudinal data sets that track student performance in a national standardized exam in grades 6, 9, and 12 and post-secondary school outcomes in Mexico. Exploiting a large sample of twins to control for all between-family differences in school, household, and neighborhood inputs, we find that primary school test scores are a strong predictor of secondary education outcomes. Using a data set that links results in the national standardized test to later outcomes, we find that secondary school test scores predict university enrollment and hourly wages. These results indicate that, despite their limitations, large-scale student assessments can capture the skills they are meant to measure and can therefore be used to monitor student learning in developing countries.

Lost learning time in English schools widens attainment gap | Disadvantaged pupils and northern regions worst affected by closures during lockdown | Children in England have lost more learning than many hoped after schools were closed for a second time in spring, according to new government-commissioned research, which showed large disparities in education loss between the country’s northern and southern regions.

Bureaucratic solutions to problems of targeting social assistance | Lower-middle-income countries spend 1.4 percent of GDP on social assistance that reduces relative poverty by 7 percent. Yet, only 54 percent of the poorest quintile are covered by the transfers. Several reasons could explain this shortfall: insufficient budget, different objectives from poverty reduction for social assistance, concerns over work incentives, and inability to target and deliver assistance. However, an important but underappreciated reason is the fear of a bureaucrat being accused of fraud. The attendant bureaucratic behavior focuses the administrative effort on avoiding errors of inclusion while tolerating high rates of exclusion errors. Many welfare programs rely on targeted assistance to reduce poverty. The degree of success of such programs depends on the size of inclusion and exclusion errors. Inclusion errors occur when nonpoor households receive transfer payments. Exclusion errors occur when poor households receive no payments…

How has Russia’s economy fared in the pandemic era? | Published in Russian in the Kommersant  | COVID-19 continues to upturn our lives and disrupt economic activity across the world. The World Bank estimates that well over 100 million people would be pushed into extreme poverty by the end of this year alone. Global food insecurity is on the rise, and the pandemic is expected to leave long-term scars, world over. How has Russia’s economy fared in the global “pandemic-onium”? What about jobs, food prices, and poverty?

The COVID-19 Cost of School Closures in Earnings and Income across the World – now in print in Comparative Education Review | The article provides estimates of the economic loss associated with COVID-19-induced school closures by mapping lost learning to the lifetime reduction of the earnings of graduates from 205 high-, middle-, and low-income countries. We also estimate economic losses by level of education. The losses are significant:

HLO (Harmonized Learning Outcomes) | Now in print in Nature: Angrist, N., S. Djankov, P.K. Goldberg and H.A. Patrinos. 2021. Measuring Human Capital using Global Learning DataNature 592: 403-408 | Summary in VoxEU | Data