Erik Hornung, Guido Schwerdt, Maurizio Strazzeri, 22 January 2022

The observance of fasting during Ramadan has been widely associated with detrimental health effects as well as poor economic performance. Less attention has been given to the potential benefits generated by the social aspects of this religious practice. This column argues that Muslim students achieve higher scores in educational performance tests following a more intensive Ramadan. By sharing the religious experience, students can build their social capital and social identities, which in turn boosts educational performance.

Anna McDougall, George Orlov, Douglas McKee, 10 December 2020

Many higher learning institutions have shifted to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although research has found that online classes can be just as effective as in-person classes, there is evidence that suggests disadvantaged students may perform relatively worse. This column compares student performance on a set of standard assessments at four PhD-granting institutions in the US before and after the switch to online classes. It finds little evidence that disadvantaged groups were further disadvantaged by the pandemic in their college learning. Instructor experience with online teaching and the use of active-learning techniques have a positive effect on student outcomes.

Fabrice Murtin, Martina Viarengo, 18 January 2013

A workforce’s cognitive skills and ability to learn are regarded as crucial factors for countries hoping to develop and become competitive in the global knowledge economy. This column argues that many developing countries‘ basic educational attainment and learning outcomes remain wanting. Taking a look at Europe’s historical record can shed light on the developing-country context, and evidence suggests that simply expanding an ill-functioning educational system will be wasteful. It’s advisable for policymakers to pursue institutional reform aimed at cost-efficiency before they begin implementing school reforms.

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