Francesca Borgonovi, Collin Hitt, Jeffrey A. Livingston, Sally Sadoff, Gema Zamarro, 16 January 2018

The Programme for International Student Assessment is a global standardised test of students’ mathematics, reading, and science skills. This column describes how the results of various studies using different approaches all find evidence that many students who take the PISA do not try as hard as they can, and that the level of effort varies widely across countries. The findings illustrate that a combination of ability and motivation may be more important than ability alone.

Joshua Aizenman, Yothin Jinjarak, Nam Ngo, Ilan Noy, 11 December 2017

The Global Crisis and its aftermath has focused attention on increasing inequality, and specifically on declining real incomes of the working poor. Comparing the US to Germany, this column argues that pushing more students to degree-granting colleges may no longer be the most efficient way to deal with the challenges caused by the decline in manufacturing employment affecting, in particular, lower-income households. Well-resourced, well-targeted vocational training can prove to be a better long-term investment in skill acquisition to help ameliorate the difficulties faced by workers whose prospects look to be quite bleak.

Adriana Kugler, Catherine Tinsley, Olga Ukhaneva, 02 November 2017

Despite various initiatives, a lack of female representation in fields of science, technology, engineering, and maths persists. This column studies how men and women are affected by various factors when switching out of STEM majors, including their own ability in a subject as well as gender representation within their cohort. Women are just as resilient to negative feedback as men when deciding whether to continue in a field of study, but when faced with additional signals such as an association of the field with masculinity, they appear to become more prone to opt out in response to low grades.

Gill Wyness, Richard Murphy, Judith Scott-Clayton, 21 October 2017

The question of who should pay for higher education continues to be hotly debated across the world. This column uses the case of the English higher education system to examine whether it is possible to charge relatively high tuition fees and at the same time protect enrolments, access, and university quality. The analysis shows that since the move from a free higher education system to a high-fee, high-aid system, university enrolment has increased substantially, with students from the poorest backgrounds experiencing the fastest increases in participation. Moreover, university funding per head has recovered dramatically since the introduction of fees.

Matias Busso, Julian Cristia, Diana Hincapié, Julián Messina, Laura Ripani, 16 October 2017

Skills-development policies are needed in Latin America and the Caribbean to close the region’s productivity gap with the rest of the world, and at the same time help close the gap between those who began life with and without advantages or opportunities. This column presents the new IADB flagship report, which aims to help governments address these issues by providing detailed, evidence-based analysis of what works and what doesn’t.

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