Manoj Atolia, Bin Grace Li, Ricardo Marto, Giovanni Melina, 09 August 2017

Despite investment in education appearing to be a more pressing need in many developing countries, spending on roads often exceeds that on schools. This column argues that the different pace with which roads and schools contribute to economic growth is central to governments’ optimal allocation decision. Investment in schools tends to lead to a larger long-run increase in output, but the effects are more delayed than for investment in roads. This trade-off contributes to the bias towards roads, in particular when government concerns about debt sustainability and policymakers’ myopia are taken into consideration.

Anna Vignoles, 07 June 2017

In international tests, the UK system performs quite well. In this video, Anna Vignoles underlines that this is the result of multiple policies, rather than a single one. This video was recorded at the Royal Economic Society Annual Conference held in Bristol in April 2017.

Stephen Billings , David Deming, Stephen Ross, 11 July 2016

The propensity for youths to commit crime has long been associated with where they live. This column looks at how the school they attend can shape this relationship. Exploiting changes to school catchment areas in a US school district, it shows that concentrations of students with similar characteristics and from similar neighbourhoods at the same school increase arrest rates, if these potential peers live close to each other. Moreover, youths who live near each other and are in the same school and grade are more likely to commit crimes together. Policies to decrease segregation in schools could thus be effective in reducing crime.

Nicholas Bloom, Renata Lemos, Raffaella Sadun, John Van Reenen, 07 December 2014

Schools with greater autonomy often perform well, but there is disagreement over whether this is due to better management or cherry-picking of students. Based on interviews with over 1,800 head teachers, this column finds that management quality is strongly correlated with pupil performance. Autonomous schools have better management, and this result does not appear to be driven by pupil composition or other observable factors. However, autonomy for head teachers is not enough – accountability to school governors is also needed.

Maria Kuecken, Marie-Anne Valfort, 09 March 2013

Are African education policies reaching the marginalised? This column reports results from a cross-country analysis, finding that the sharing of textbooks has a positive effect only for the most privileged students. For the average student, textbook access has no impact on academic outcomes. Indeed, less privileged students perform poorly due to a combination of low parent and teacher expectation, poor health, and routine classroom disruptions. It is these factors that reduce the effectiveness of policies like the improvement of access to textbooks. For education to be truly for all, educational reforms must target the least privileged students.

Eric Hanushek, Ludger Woessmann, Susanne Link, 09 January 2012

We are increasingly told that school decisions are best made by head teachers who have a better knowledge of the demands on schools and the capacity of their staff. This column presents new research suggesting that local autonomy can indeed work, but only in countries where public examinations can help to keep teachers on their toes.

Stephen Machin, Sandra McNally, Olmo Silva, 14 December 2007

Do computers in schools help? Economists have long been sceptical, but new research finds that technology does have a positive effect on pupils’ performance.