Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Tag: Education


student in India

Want to Build a Better Society? Make Rich Schools Accept Poor Kids

Education policymakers care about more than just test scores. They probably care a lot about making policies that will help them get re-elected. They might care about particular people or places that have been historically disadvantaged. And perhaps they care about building a more integrated society: breaking down social barriers by putting children from different socioeconomic backgrounds in the same classrooms and positively influencing interracial or interclass attitudes and social behaviour.


Many countries’ systems of basic education are in “stall” condition.

A recent paper of Beatty et al. (2018) uses information from the Indonesia Family Life Survey, a representative household survey that has been carried out in several waves with the same individuals since 2000 and contains information on whether individuals can answer simple arithmetic questions. Figure 1, showing the relationship between the level of schooling and the probability of answering a typical question correctly, has two shocking results.

Graph showing that there is shockingly little progress on answering multiple choice questions about simple arithmetic operations as students move through schooling.

The Learning Crisis and How to Fix it: Reflections from the 2018 RISE Conference

Imagine an economically thriving and democratic middle-income country that has achieved near universal primary school enrollment, tripled percentage of total government expenditure on education since 2000 (in real terms), and roughly doubled teacher salaries. You would think all is well, right? But new measures of learning progress show low absolute and marginal learning as students are promoted from grade to grade.

Detail of chart showing that taxes can exacerbate poverty in the poorest countries

Chart of the Week: Taxing the Poor to Give to the Bureaucrat?

The world’s poorest people have been getting richer recently. But they remain incredibly poor. The 10 percent of the world’s population still consuming $1.90 or less a day are subsisting on a small fraction of the resources available to people at the US poverty line. So you’d hope that the governments of the countries where they live would be trying to raise their consumption levels. But the reality is more complex.

Vietnam’s Exceptional Learning Success: Can We Do That Too?

In the last international PISA assessment for math and science, Vietnam outperformed many developed countries, including the UK and the US. Yet Vietnam only has a small fraction of the GDP of these countries. Should other countries with similar income levels, such as Indonesia, be asking themselves: “Why not me?”

Bad Assessments Are Bad for Learning

High-stakes national assessments in developing countries tend to have important consequences for test takers. These assessments can determine a child’s future opportunities by deciding whether a child progresses to a higher grade or achieves a certain certification to enter the workforce. Because these assessments are important for both children and teachers, they have a strong influence on what actually happens inside the classroom, and as a result, on the learning outcomes of children.

Chart of the Week: Gender Pay Gaps around the World Are Bigger Than You Think, and Have Almost Nothing to Do with Girls Schooling

While I think it's silly to argue we spend too much on girls' education, perhaps it's reasonable to ask whether a concern with gender equality and a cold hard look at recent data would lead anyone to put their marginal dollar into girls' schooling over, say, campaigning for gender quotas (which seem to work well in Indian politics, at least) or even subsidized childcare (which has boosted female labor force participation in Latin America).