Evidence-based policy has become somewhat of a catchphrase in politics. Everybody’s for it and nobody’s against it. But of course there’s evidence and there’s evidence. Anybody can find a study proving their point – but not everyone can find good studies that prove their point.
This is where the discipline of education economics has much to teach mainstream education research. While descriptive studies can be useful for generating hypotheses, economics brings a strongly quantitative approach and a set of methodological tools for establishing the causal relationships between variables and outcomes.
Since the spring of 2014, the Centre for Education Economics (CfEE) has been producing an (almost) Monthly Research Digest, intended to give interested parties a direct view into the policies and practices that rigorous economic research suggests work, and do not work, in education.
Now, with support from Cambridge Assessment, the Centre has launched a new and improved version of the Digest. I have taken on the role of Deputy Editor, with a view to beefing up the section on research from low and middle-income economies.
‘Developing’ countries (those below the $12,000 per capita income threshold for rich countries) make up 36 per cent of the world economy, but 83 per cent of the world’s population, and 87 per cent of the world’s school pupils.
The barriers to educational success that many countries face, even at the level of basic competency, often seem intractable, and their scale overwhelming.
Against this often dismal backdrop, research, at least, is progressing. Reports on studies of interventions in developing countries are increasingly represented in the top economics journals. Randomised control trials are on the rise, in part due to the relatively low cost of monitoring experimentation at scale in the developing world context.
Better understanding of where to prioritise reform efforts is critical in developing countries. In the Digest we aim to make the latest research more readily available and accessible for educators, researchers, and policymakers alike. If you are not already a subscriber, do sign up on the CfEE website. The first issue is out now.
Lee Crawfurd is a CfEE Fellow. He is Strategic Advisor at the Rwanda Ministry of Education and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. He is also a PhD candidate in education economics at the University of Sussex, and has worked on global education policy as a civil servant, consultant, and researcher.