The Puggle: February 2017 edition

Welcome to the February installment of The Puggle, your source for the emerging issues and findings related to girls’ education that the Echidna Giving team has come across this month!

New analysis by Lant Pritchett and Justin Sandefur at CGD adds to growing evidence that schooling is not equivalent to learning. Even if every single girl completed at least 6 grades of schooling, 40% of them would still be illiterate. The conclusion? We need to get girls into school AND we need to improve how much girls are learning once they get there. Image from David Evans on Twitter shows that median math performance in low-performing countries is lower than the bottom 5% performance in top-performing countries.

Image from David Evans on Twitter shows that median math performance in low-performing countries is lower than the bottom 5% performance in top-performing countries.

What are some of the ways we can do this? Here’s what we’ve learned in February:

Students will not learn unless they have teachers who understand the content they are trying to teach, who know how to teach it, and who show up in class. Unfortunately, recent analysis conducted by the World Bank using data from seven African countries shows that this is rarely the case. For instance, one-third of teachers are unable to correct simple spelling and grammar exercises with 80% accuracy. Only 10% of teachers deploy a full set of effective teaching practices. And teachers are absent so much that students only receive half of the intended instructional time.

Students can learn effectively from computer-based content, as opposed to live instruction, if the conditions are right. There are as many failed technology-related interventions in education as successful ones. But a recent evaluation showed particularly promising resultswhen children learned with computer-assisted learning software called Mindspark. In 90 days, student scores increased impressively, with effect sizes up to four times larger than previously studied technology-related interventions. What contributed to success? Embedded in the software were many of the same elements that are associated with good teaching: high quality content targeted to (and constantly adapting with) student learning levels that requires constant student engagement. And, in urban India, the program could ensure the infrastructure, staffing, and other conditions needed to run successfully.

For decades, economists have argued that spending more money on education does not improve student learning. Improving learning is about how governments spend their money, not how much they spend. But new analysis by Kirabo Jackson argues more money may matter more than we thought.And he argues that spending on early education complements spending in K-12. “Basic findings are that the effect of Head Start on long-run outcomes is bigger if the child subsequently attends a K-12 school that is well funded. The opposite is also true: Each additional dollar spent on K-12 is more effective at increasing wages if it was preceded by Head Start spending.”

Bigger picture, does the global education community have the right attitude, architecture, and actors to advance girls’ schooling and learning? In his final post as managing director for global education at Results for Development, Nick Burnett argues that sterile debates dominate the sector and the international architecture is not fit for purpose. Meanwhile, Christina Kwauk at the Brookings Institution posits that “not enough actors working on girls’ education engage in policy advocacy work that is specifically geared toward changing policies and legislation.”

Want to dig in more on other findings related to education? Check out this usefully-compiled database of education studies.

Need a shot of inspiration? Watch this Superbowl ad and read these books to the children in your life!