Author Archives: Roving Bandit

Open Data for Education

There’s a global crisis in learning, and we need to learn more about how to address it. Whilst data collection is costly, developing countries have millions of dollars worth of data about learning just sitting around unused on paper and spreadsheets in government offices. It’s time for an Open Data Revolution for Education.The 2018 World Development Report makes clear the scale of the global learning crisis. Fewer than 1 in 5 primary school students in low income countries can pass a minimum proficiency threshold. The report concludes by listing 3 ideas on what external actors can do about it;Support the creation of objective, politically salient informationEncourage flexibility and support reform coalitionsLink financing more closely to results that lead to learningThe first of these, generating new information about learning, can be expensive

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Why don’t parents value school effectiveness? (because they think LeBron’s coach is a…

A new NBER study exploits the NYC centralised school admissions database to understand how parents choose which schools to apply for, and finds (shock!) parents choose schools based on easily observable things (test scores) rather than very difficult to observe things (actual school quality as estimated (noisily!) by value-added).Value-added models are great — they’re a much fairer way of judging schools than just looking at test scores. Whilst test scores conflate what the student’s home background does with what the school does, value-added models (attempt to) control for a student’s starting level (and therefore all the home inputs up that point), and just looking at the progress that students make whilst at a school.David Leonhardt put in well;“For the most part, though, identifying a good school is hard for parents. Conventional wisdom usually defines a good school as one attended by high-achieving students, which is easy to measure. But that’s akin to concluding that all of LeBron James’s coaches have been geniuses.”Whilst value-added models are fairer on average, they’re typically pretty noisy for any individual school, with large and overlapping confidence intervals. Here’s the distribution of school value-added estimates for Uganda (below).

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JOB: Research Assistant on Global Education Policy

I’m hiring a full-time research assistant based in London, for more details see the Ark website here. — Research and evidence are at the heart of EPG’s work. We have:Collaborated with JPAL on a large-scale field experiment on school accountability in Madhya Pradesh, IndiaCommissioned a randomized evaluation by IPA of Liberia’s public-private partnership in primary schoolingLed a five-year randomized trial of a school voucher programme in DelhiHelped the Ugandan National Examinations Bureau create new value-added measures of school performanceCommissioned scoping studies of non-state education provision in Kenya and Uganda Reporting to the Head of Research and Evaluation, the Research Assistant will contribute to EPG’s work through a mixture of background research, data analysis, writing, and organizational activities. S/he will support and participate in ongoing and future academic research projects and EPG project monitoring and evaluation activities.The role is based in Ark’s London office with some international travel.The successful candidate will perform a range of research, data analysis, and coordination duties, including, but not limited to, the following: Conduct literature and data searches for ongoing research projects.Organize data, provide descriptive statistics, and run other statistical analysis using Stata and preparing publication quality graphicsCollaborate with EPG’s project team to draft blogs, policy briefs, and notes on research findings.Support EPG’s project team in the design and implementation of project monitoring and evaluation planProvide technical support and testing on the development of value-added models of school qualityCoordination and update of the EPG/GSF research repositoryOrganise internal research and policy seminarsPerform other duties as assigned.

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Why is there no interest in kinky learning?

Just *how* poor are *your* beneficiaries though? In the aid project business everybody is obsessed with reaching the *poorest* of the poor. The ultra poor. The extreme poor. Lant Pritchett has criticised extensively this arbitrary focus on getting people above a certain threshold, as if the people earning $1.91 a day (just above the international poverty line) really have substantively better lives than those on $1.89 (just below).

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The Continuing Saga of Rwandan Poverty Data

via Ken Opalo, there is new analysis out of the 2014 Rwanda poverty numbers that contradicts official Government reports, finding that poverty actually rose between 2010 and 2014. Professor Filip Reyntjens made a similar argument at the time, which I disagreed with. This new (anonymous) analysis in the Review of African Political Economy supports the conclusion of Reyntjens, based on new analysis of the survey microdata (with commendably published stata code). The key difference seems to be that their analysis updates the poverty line based on prices reported in the survey microdata rather than using the official Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation.What I took away from this at the time was the apparent fragility of trend data on poverty that depends on consumption aggregates and price data. I also drafting a follow-up blogpost that for whatever reason never got posted, so here it is

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Someone needs to show Paul Collier how to use Dropbox

“At the end of the lecture, the exhausted Prof Collier carrying a heavy bag was mobbed by autograph-seeking youths who had some questions for him. As the English professor was leaving the hall, a rogue whom he mistook for one of the Ooni’s people asked to assist him with carrying the bag. He handed it to him trustingly and like magic, the thief vanished into the thin air in a twinkle of an eye, with everything gone—money, passport, air ticket and most painful of all, a laptop filled with the professor’s writings. “My soul is missing,” a distraught Prof. Collier told me, a day after.” Sun News Online (Nigeria), ‘Agony of an Oxford Prof in Lagos’

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The Political Economy of Underinvestment in Education

According to this model, the returns to education take so long that leaders need at least a 30 year horizon to start investing in schools. “In the context of developing economies, investing in schools (relative to roads) is characterized by much larger long-run returns, but also by a much more pronounced intertemporal substitution of labor and crowding-out of private investment. Therefore, the public investment composition has profound repercussions on government debt sustainability, and is characterized by a trade-o, with important welfare implications. A myopic government would not invest in social infrastructure at all.

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A research agenda on education & institutions

From Tessa Bold & Jakob Svensson for the DFID-OPM-Paris School of Economics research programme “EDI” 1. A focus on learning in primary is still essential – don’t get too distracted by secondary and tertiary2. More focus on teachers’ effort, knowledge, and skills3. How do we go from pilots to scaled-up programs?

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Stop highlighting our differences? #moreincommon

Last night at my local primary school Governor meeting one of the other governors objected to a table showing a disaggregation of recent pupil discipline issues categorised by ethnic grouping. “Should we really be calling children ‘White Other’ or ‘Black Other’?” Turns out these are the standard official government categories offered to students/parents to self-identify with. As a researcher I’m naturally interested in as many descriptive categories as possible to help understand the factors that drive differences in outcomes between individuals, but every time we ask the question we also ask people to think in ethnic or racial or national terms, highlighting our differences not the more in common. As Chris Dillow wrote recently in an excellent take-down of David Goodheart:”The thing is, we all have multiple identities: I’m tall, white, Oxford-educated, bald, heterosexual, male, bourgeois with a working class background, an economist, an atheist with a Methodist upbringing.

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The Political Economy of Public Sector Performance Management Reform

Reflections from Prajapati Trivedi, founding Secretary of the Performance Management Division in the Government of India Cabinet Secretariat, in Governance. “The new government of Prime Minister Modi never formally declared that it is closing the RFD system. It simply stopped asking the departments to prepare RFDs (performance agreements). Indeed, the government went on to appoint three more Secretaries for Performance Management as my successors.

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Liberia Fact of the Day

“The treaties that govern space allow private individuals and corporations to travel the stars, but only with the licensure and legal backing of an earthbound government. It’s similar that way to the laws of the sea. And today, on Earth’s oceans, more than 11 percent of all the tons of freight shipped is carried on boats that fly the Liberian flag (In contrast, U.S.-registered ships carry just 0.7 percent of the freight tonnage).In exchange for lower taxes and looser regulations, both the shipping companies of the present and the Martian explorers of tomorrow could pay to register their vessel with a small country they have no other connection to (Liberia earns more than $20 million a year this way) and carry its flag (and laws) with them, wherever they go.”Maggie Koerth-Baker at 538 (via The Browser)

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The key to better education systems is accountability. So how on earth do we do that?

And what do we even actually mean when we talk about accountability?Perhaps the key theme emerging from research on reforming education systems is accountability. But accountability means different things to different people. To start with, many think first of bottom-up (‘citizen’ or ‘social’) accountability. But increasingly in development economics, enthusiasm is waning for bottom-up social accountability as studies show limited impacts on outcomes.

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Rising DFID Spending hasn’t Crowded Out Private Giving

Last week I was poking around the ESRC’s ‘Administrative Data Research Network’ and discovered the Charity Commission data download website – containing every annual financial return made by every individual charity in England and Wales since 2007. The data comes in a slightly weird file format that I’d never heard of, but thankfully the NCVO have a very helpful guide and Python code for converting the data into .csv format (which was easy enough to use that I managed to figure out how to run without ever having really used Python). One obvious question you could ask with this data is whether the private income of international charities has dropped as DFID spending has gone up (more than doubled over the same period) – it is conceivable that people might decide that they could give less to international charity as more of their tax money is being distributed by DFID.That does not seem to be the case at all. There are two ways of identifying international charities – by their stated area of operation, or by their stated objective category. I’ve coded charities that have no UK activities as “International”, and also picked out the charities that ticked the box for “Overseas Aid/Famine Relief” as their activity category.

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Introducing… the Global Schools Forum

There’s nothing like sitting in a room full of people who build and run schools in the developing world to make you feel pretty inadequate. At least I did, last week at the Global Schools Forum. It can feel like a pretty long and abstract chain from the kind of policy research and evaluation that I do through to better policies and better outcomes, and I envy being able to see directly a tangible difference for real people.You may have heard of the emergence of some international low-cost private school chains such as Bridge International Academies, but the movement is growing quickly, and there are many new organisations trying to do similar things that you probably haven’t heard of – some profit-making, some non-profit, some that charge fees, some that don’t, international, local, big, small, and everything in between. The biggest school operator you don’t hear that much about is the Bangladeshi NGO BRAC, who run thousands and thousands of fee-free schools.Last week a whole range of school operators and the donors who support them gathered at the 2nd Annual Meeting of the “Global Schools Forum” (GSF); a new membership organisation of 26 school networks (of which 14 for profit and 12 non-profit) operating in 25 countries, and 17 donors and financing organisations, with networks ranging from 1 to 48,000 schools. Running one school is hard enough; trying to disrupt a dysfunctional system by growing a chain of schools is harder.

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