Author Archives: Roving Bandit

What should NGOs say & do about private schools?

Susannah Hares from Ark and I attended a meeting with the senior staff of an INGO last week, along with a couple of other external invitees, to help them think through their position towards private schools and fees in education. We wrote up our recommendations & takeaways on the Huffington Post. First and foremost, it should reaffirm its principles: that education should be free; that government should be the guarantor but not necessarily the sole provider of education.Second, it should focus its education reform efforts on setting high expectations for all children and improving accountability for all schools, whether public or private. School inspections, good data, robust assessments: these are all critical components of a good system accountability and should apply to public and private schools alike.Third, in contexts in which substantial numbers of children already do attend private schools, the INGO could see if there are any clear market failures in the private sector that could be improved by government or NGO intervention. For example, training of teachers, or addressing information asymmetries through better community engagement.Fourth, where public-private partnerships are planned or in place, the INGO should challenge government and private sector partners to place equity and quality at the heart of any programme.

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Why School Systems Matter, and How We Can Fix Them

This post first appeared on the CGD blog Views from the CenterAccountability in school systems is essential to deliver better learning and accelerate progress in developing countries. What is still really lacking—and what RISE is working towards (such as with Lant Pritchett’s coherence paper)—is a coherent and complete analytical framework capturing the key elements of a system of school accountability that can explain the divergent experiences we have seen in school reform.The latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives has a great symposium on schools and accountability, covering much of the research that motivated the development of RISE. Here are a few of the research highlights:Isaac Mbiti (part of the RISE Tanzania team) discusses “The Need for Accountability in Education in Developing Countries.” Brian Jacob & Jesse Rothstein dig into how we measure student ability in modern assessment systems (including some helpful discussion of what IRT can and can’t do). David Deming & David Figlio draw lessons from US experience with test-based school accountability systems, including caution about unintended consequences and ‘gaming,’ and noting that accountability seems to work best for low-performers. Julia Chabrier, Sarah Cohodes, and Philip Oreopoulos sum up what we can learn from charter school lotteries, re-emphasizing the point that charter schools seem to work best in neighbourhoods with poor performing schools.Here though I’m going to focus on Ludger Woessmann’s article, “The Importance of School Systems” to help break down the possible reasons for the differences in performance across systems.1.

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Reaching universal secondary school won’t solve the learning crisis

Secondary school graduates in Jakarta, urban Ghana, and urban Kenya, have worse literacy skills than primary school graduates in rich countries. More here on the RISE blog.

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What can we learn from Sociology about learning?

My summary on the RISE blog of the working paper from the RISE team main sociologist Susan Watkins (& Amy Kaler):”One of the key things that should strike you from this particular framework and this way of disaggregating the WDR04 accountability triangle, is that the Delegation aspect of accountability relationships in education systems is probably the least studied. The WDR04 has spawned a range of literature looking at the role of better information and better incentives for performance, and there has been plenty of research looking at financing and resourcing. But there’s next to nothing on delegation – what do parents and governments actually expect from schools? Much of the research on the economics of education looks at the effects of schooling on later outcomes, for example on earnings or health, but that is not the same question as what was initially intended.

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In praise of universalisation (& why it is distinct from Westernisation)

This is great from Scott Alexander:”the incorrect model of “foreign cultures being Westernized” casts Western culture as the aggressor, whereas the model of “every culture is being universalized” finds Western culture to be as much a victim as anywhere else. Coca-Cola might have replaced traditional yak’s milk in Mongolia, but it also replaced traditional apple cider in America. A Hopi Indian saddened that her children no longer know the old ritual dances differs little from a Southern Baptist incensed that her kids no longer go to church. Universal values have triumphed over both.”

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Update from the UK government about the Worst Aid project in the world

So I emailed my MP Meg Hillier about this EU aid project for detention camps in Sudan, who kindly wrote to the Foreign Office Minister for Africa, and sent me his reply. My response:Dear Meg, Thank you for raising this issue with James Duddridge. Unfortunately his reply does not reassure me at all. The “Better Migration Management” project description notes that “2 reception centres in Gadaref and Kassala, with custody rooms” could “in principle be funded” , and that one of the main risks of the project are that “Provision of equipment and trainings to sensitive national authorities (such as security services or border management) [could be] diverted for repressive aims; [leading to] criticism by NGOs and civil society for engaging with repressive governments on migration (particularly in Eritrea and Sudan).”Clearly Mr. Duddridge’s response, that training will be provided by Western NGOs, and money will not be given directly to the Government of Sudan, does not alleviate this risk of repression

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Answering THE big question in global education: Why is Vietnam such an outlier?

This post first appeared on the RISE websiteWhy do Vietnam school children score over 100 points better on comparable tests than the average for low-income countries?Vietnam is basically the only low-income country in any of the internationally comparable tests that performs at the same level as rich countries. Vietnam is a massive outlier, performing substantially better than should be expected for a country at that level of income. Rich OECD countries such as the UK and US flock to see the top performing places in the world on the PISA test to try and understand what is so special about education systems in Shanghai and Finland that enables them to perform 100 points better than the OECD average. Vietnam scores over 100 points better than the average for low-income countries.And this isn’t just on one test – other research by Abhijeet Singh has linked the Oxford Young Lives survey with the international TIMSS test, and again Vietnam massively outperforms the other low-income countries (see chart). Singh’s study shows that the advantage starts early, with Vietnamese children slightly outperforming those in other developing countries before they even start school at age 5, but this gap then grows each year

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Grit: Probably not that important in developing countries

“Angela Duckworth’s new book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance has been launched with great fanfare, reaching number two on the NY Times Nonfiction bestseller list. She recently gave a very polished and smooth book launch talk to a packed audience at the World Bank, and is working with World Bank colleagues on improving grit in classrooms in Macedonia.”That’s David McKenzie in a great book review, considering what development economists can learn from this hot psychology research trend. Grit – the ability to keep going when things get tough and you aren’t successful straight away – can help explain all sorts of individual outcomes beyond tests of skill or ability. David notes amongst other things how U.S.

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Markets not in everything [if you’re Pakistani]

From a Facebook friend:So, it turns out that Pakistanis are not eligible to purchase travel insurance online with any insurance company. We are simply not on anyone’s list of “eligible countries”. Someone has decided that in addition to not being allowed to enter most of the world, we also do not deserve access to basic financial services. Pakistanis wanting to travel can just f@‪#‎k‬ themselves.

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Struggling for the right words… contender for absolute worst ‘aid’ project in the world

Der Spiegel reports… the EU is planning to provide training, equipment, and DETENTION CAMPS to the government of Sudan, which is led by a wanted war criminal, in order that they can prevent human beings from crossing the border out of Sudan in the direction of Europe. The project is to be coordinated by the German development agency GIZ. Wow I feel sorry for the idealists at GIZ who signed up in order to help people, and now they’re building detention facilities for war criminals. “The ambassadors of the 28 European Union member states had agreed to secrecy.

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Content knowledge vs pedagogy in Teaching

A fascinating abstract from Roland Fryer. In many school systems you have a single teacher for most subjects in primary school, but increasingly specialised different teachers for each subject in secondary school. This RCT tried out having subject specialist teachers in primary, finding that this worsened outcomes, in theory because at least at primary level it is more important that the teacher knows the kids’ and their ability and is therefore better able to target their teaching, than that they have more specialised knowledge of the subject matter. Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, I conducted a randomized field experiment in fifty traditional public elementary schools in Houston, Texas designed to test the potential productivity benefits of teacher specialization in schools.

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Does “the Economist” know what a “market failure” is?

Apparently not. “Do British housing markets suffer from market failure”? The answer is no.Here’s a quick refresher – a market failure is when the market – left alone – doesn’t produce an efficient or pareto optimal solution. Good examples are externalities such as pollution or congestion, or public goods such as new vaccines.

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A rare non-ideological argument against for-profit schools

To [Samuel] Abrams, the problem with for-profit operation of schools is not that businessmen are making money off the provision of a public service such as education. Textbook publishers, software developers, and bus operators all make money from schools and should, he said, but they are all providing a discrete good or service that can be easily evaluated. “School management, on the other hand, is a complex service that does not afford the transparency necessary for proper contract enforcement,” he said. “Without such transparency, there’s client distrust: parents, taxpayers, and legislators can never be sure the provider is doing what was promised; and the child as the immediate consumer cannot be in a position to judge the quality of service.

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Top 10 Must-Read Articles on Education & Development

What should you read first if you’re a new policy advisor in a Ministry of Education? Here is my response to a couple of recent emails along these lines on the CGD blog.

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