Stanford economist Eric Hanushek was recently awarded the 2021 Yidan Prize, the world’s largest award in education research, which grants recipients nearly $2 million to fund a global progressive education project. So how is Hanushek going to spend the cash?
His plans focus on Africa and Latin America. “The schools are just not competitive with the rest of the world,” he said. “A country’s only chance of development is, in fact, improving the quality of their schools.”
On this episode of School’s In, Hanushek joins Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to discuss the need for evidence-based programs to improve education in emerging nations.
Hanushek stresses the importance of having local stakeholders make the decisions for their community. “We’ve had decades of international aid organizations coming in from outside and trying to tell countries what they should be doing…. and the schools haven’t been improving.” A better approach, he says, would be to develop a network of stakeholders who can talk back and forth and share information. “Policymakers in Africa— and probably in Europe, too— get most of their information by calling people from the country next door and asking what they're doing.”
Here in the United States, Hanushek sees a lot of research toward reform but questions the outcome. “How do you make sure that there are highly effective teachers in our most disadvantaged schools where they're most in need? It's remarkable how little progress has been made at answering that question.”
He points to Washington, D.C., as one exception. “They evaluated the effectiveness of their teachers and then paid attention to what they found, which is the amazing part.” By increasing salaries for its most effective teachers and firing more than 500 others, D.C. schools, “while not stellar, have improved faster than any other large school system in the country.”
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