Education

Alex Bryson, Lorenzo Corsini, Irene Martelli, 24 November 2020

Public spending on education in Italy has been falling for many years, limiting the hiring of new permanent teachers and thus raising the average age of teachers in the country. This column considers the effect of allocating permanent teacher contracts to older teachers on student performance in upper-secondary schools in Tuscany. The findings suggest that a higher proportion of older teachers in a school has a negative effect on student performance. The government may need to do more to recruit younger cohorts of teachers into permanent posts, preferably through periodic intakes.

Elisabeth Grewenig, Philipp Lergetporer, Katharina Werner, Ludger Woessmann, Larissa Zierow, 15 November 2020

A key feature of school closures is that there is no trained educator in the room to help. This column argues that low-achieving students are particularly affected by the lack of teacher support. Based on a German time-use survey, it finds that students on average reduced daily learning time by about half during the school closures. This reduction was significantly larger for low-achieving students, who disproportionately replaced learning time with activities deemed detrimental to child development such as computer gaming rather than with more conducive activities such as reading. 

Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Dirk Krueger, Alexander Ludwig, Irina Popova, 12 November 2020

According to the World Bank, around 1.6 billion school children were affected by Covid-related school and childcare centre closures at their peak. This column uses a model that features public schooling as an input into the human capital production of children, as well as the monetary and time investment of parents into their children. The results suggest that school and childcare closures have significant negative long-term consequences on the human capital and welfare of the affected children, especially those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. The loss in schooling and associated human capital accumulation is harder to offset the longer the crisis lasts.

Gordon Dahl, Dan-Olof Rooth, Anders Stenberg, 10 November 2020

In many countries, secondary school students choose between academic fields without knowing what impact their choice will have on future earnings. This column argues that information on field-specific earnings premiums could not only help students to plan for their future, but could also help policymakers to allocate education resources. Taking advantage of the distinctive admissions system in Sweden’s secondary schools, the authors find that earnings payoffs for engineering, natural science, and business are generally positive, while the returns to social science and humanities are mostly negative.

Per Engzell, Arun Frey, Mark Verhagen, 09 November 2020

School closures have been a common tool in the battle against COVID-19. Yet, their costs and benefits remain largely unknown. This column estimates the ‘learning loss’ that occurred when Dutch schools closed for eight weeks, using national exams that took place just before and after lockdown and similar data from previous years. On average, students lost out on a fifth of a year’s worth of learning. Losses were especially marked among those from disadvantaged homes.

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