Learning Loss During the Pandemic (News and Research 300)

Learning Loss During the Pandemic | A few months ago, I ran across a comment from a K-12 educator talking about students who had fallen behind during the pandemic. I can’t seem to track down the comment, but it was quite positive and gung-ho, claiming that the school system knew what needed to be done to help these students catch up. Maybe I’m just a surly negative-minded grinch, but I didn’t believe it. After all, there are lots of students who were already falling behind before the pandemic, and that pattern has gone on for a long time. It seems clear to me that school systems have not in fact shown that they know what is needed to help students catch up…

Closed schools during the covid pandemic will affect future income losses of the current young generation (Zavřené školy během covidové pandemie budou mít vliv na budoucí ztráty v příjmech současné mladé generace) | How to mitigate the impact on education caused by school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic? Experts on systemic issues in education discussed this in Prague on June 21 at an event organized by the World Bank and CERGE – EI . Experts from Denmark, Estonia, France, Great Britain, Portugal, Poland, the Czech Republic or Azerbaijan shared their experiences.

Four Facts about Human Capital | This paper synthesizes what economists have learned about human capital since Becker (1962) into four stylized facts. First, human capital explains at least one-third of the variation in labor earnings within countries and at least half of the variation across countries. Second, human capital investments have high economic returns throughout childhood and young adulthood. Third, we know how to build foundational skills such as literacy and numeracy, and resources are often the main constraint. Fourth, higher-order skills such as problem-solving and teamwork are increasingly valuable, and the technology for producing these skills is not well-understood. We know that investment in education works and that skills matter for earnings, but we do not always know why.

Women and Online Learning in Emerging Markets | In recent years, technological advances have ushered in a new era of digitally enabled learning.  IFC estimates that the market for adult online learning will more than double by 2026. These trends highlight the need to understand if, and how, online platforms are serving learners in emerging markets, particularly women, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Cognitive Endurance as Human Capital | Schooling may build human capital not only by teaching academic skills, but by expanding the capacity for cognition itself. We focus specifically on cognitive endurance: the ability to sustain effortful mental activity over a continuous stretch of time. As motivation, we document that globally and in the US, the poor exhibit cognitive fatigue more quickly than the rich across field settings; they also attend schools that offer fewer opportunities to practice thinking for continuous stretches. Using a field experiment with 1,600 Indian primary school students, we randomly increase the amount of time students spend in sustained cognitive activity during the school day—using either math problems (mimicking good schooling) or non-academic games (providing a pure test of our mechanism). Each approach markedly improves cognitive endurance: students show 22% less decline in performance over time when engaged in intellectual activities—listening comprehension, academic problems, or IQ tests. They also exhibit increased attentiveness in the classroom and score higher on psychological measures of sustained attention. Moreover, each treatment improves students’ school performance by 0.09 standard deviations. This indicates that the experience of effortful thinking itself—even when devoid of any subject content—increases the ability to accumulate traditional human capital. Finally, we complement these results with quasi-experimental variation indicating that an additional year of schooling improves cognitive endurance, but only in higher-quality schools. Our findings suggest that schooling disparities may further disadvantage poor children by hampering the development of a core mental capacity.

Decomposing Changes in Higher Education Return on Investment Over Time | This note examines the college earnings premium along novel dimensions using recently released administrative data. Within-institution return on investment has increased across student cohorts. However, substantial heterogeneity across institutional sector and level. Most notably, changes over time have exacerbated racial and ethnic inequality with respect to earnings outcomes. The relatively constant college premium observed since 2000 is likely a combination of an increasing within-college premium and a compositional shift in favor of lower-return institutions.

University selectivity and returns premium: evidence from Kazakhstan | More selective universities are presumably better in quality and expected to provide better labor market outcomes for their graduates – returns premia. However, various empirical applications have found that part of it should be attributed to selectivity. Using the data on recent higher education graduates’ entry salaries with a fuzzy regression discontinuity design, this study reveals no apparent difference in the returns one gains by attending more selective and relatively better-funded national universities as opposed to other public HEIs in Kazakhstan, at least during the first year in employment, which may potentially call for a reconsideration of the associated policies.