Josef Ritzen, the Netherlands’ education minister for eight years before he joined the World Bank, once told me: “The view of a prime minister is that an education minister only brings problems. There’s nothing he or she can do to improve quality that has a political upside. So, most ministers try to do nothing.” Ritzen’s recent successors have learned this lesson the hard way with public outcry over heightened math admission requirements for teacher training colleges that have led to a teacher shortage and larger classes.
Like many countries globally, Ethiopia’s primary schools are facing a learning crisis. Yet, it would be wrong to assume that improving education access and quality has not been a priority in Ethiopia.
Why is learning in primary education so poor, and how can it be improved? This remains a central question for developing countries today. One explanation focuses on the role of politicians—an approach followed by Agustina Paglayan’s research presented at this year’s RISE conference.
Lant Pritchett has a knack for making novel arguments and making them seem so obvious that one wonders how no one has made them before. His recent RISE working paper, The Politics of Learning: Directions for Future Research, is no exception. It’s chock-full of key insights for anyone who seeks to explain why developing country governments pursue their educational policies.
The Comparative and Education Society (CIES) Conference is one of the most prominent events for education researchers. This year’s event was hosted in Mexico City and featured a number of RISE resarchers.
What does it mean for a country to “pivot to learning”? What specific education policies change? How hard is it to implement these – both technically and politically? And above all, how long does it take for student learning actually to improve?
This year I attended three conferences/workshops that had at least one session on education and education systems. As the year draws to a close, I spent some time reflecting on the common themes and the road ahead, and in particular how it fits with my research. In this blog, I will briefly describe the (personal) highlights from each event: a workshop by The Centre for Teaching and Research in Economics’ (CIDE), the RISE Annual Conference at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), and the Empirical Management Conference at the World Bank.
As Caine Rolleston pointed out in a recent RISE blog, education is complicated and the existing body of research into how to improve things is very scant on evidence for educational interventions that have large and reliable improvements on outcomes. This makes it difficult for policymakers, donors, etc., to know how to make a difference and hard for the research community to be heard convincingly in the policy arena.