A restart for Head Start?

While Head Start has made some progress, the federally funded program “continues to lack clear, comprehensive goals for program performance,” writes Sara Mead in Renewing Head Start’s Promise: Invest in What Works for Disadvantaged Preschoolers.

In addition, Head Start overemphasizes compliance, requires programs to do too many different things and pays too little attention to curriculum, Mead writes.

While Mead believes Head Start can improve, her report is a devastating critique, writes Checker Finn on Gadfly.

Finn also takes on the idea that funding preschool education in poor countries should be a top United Nations priority. It “costs little and has lifelong benefits by getting children started on learning,” argues Matt Ridley in Smart Aid for the World’s Poor.

“Preschool is not like a polio shot or smallpox vaccination,” writes Finn. “It does not inoculate anybody against anything.”

. . . the right kind of preschool program can give a needed leg up to kids who aren’t getting such preparation at home.

But—and it’s a huge but—it’s only preparation for further education. The further education has to be waiting, and it has to be good education that takes advantage of what was accomplished in preschool.

In the U.S., which has universal elementary education and compulsory school attendance, “whatever boost was provided by preschool fades to the vanishing point during the early grades because the schools themselves fail to sustain it.”

In the Third World . . .

Schooling Ain’t Learning

Schooling is expanding rapidly in the Third World, writes Lant Pritchett in The Rebirth of Education. But the subtitle — Schooling Ain’t Learning — tells the real story, writes Bryan Caplan on EconLog. “Literacy and numeracy remain wretched.

The average Haitian and Bangladeshi today have more schooling than the average Frenchman or Italian in 1960:


On international tests, however, the average student in the developing world scores far below the average student in the developed world.

There is a large education premium in the Third World, notes Caplan. Since weaker students usually drop out, those who make it through are more attractive to employers.

Ethiopia: Can tablets replace teachers?

Can Tablets Take the Place of Teachers?

From BachelorsDegreeOnline.com.

Deworming works better than laptops

On a visit to Rio, my daughter took the favela tour, which included a visit to a slum school where children were working on computers. The slum also had gotten running water. Which helps kids more? Probably clean water, argues Timothy Ogen in Miller-McCune Online.

One Laptop per Child — an attempt to transform Third World education by distributing $100 laptops — is faltering, Ogden writes. But there are cheaper, more effective alternatives that make a real difference.

In the U.S., many programs to give laptops to students have been abandoned due to “high costs and no evidence of benefit,” writes Ogden. In the developing world, studies have shown few benefits to technology. In Romania, giving computers to poor families “had a negative effect on students’ grades and educational goals.” Giving computers, curriculum support and training to teachers in Colombia had “no impact on student outcomes.” A study in India found students did worse if they used computers during school hours but better if they used them after hours to drill on skills.

What does work? Deworming, writes Ogden.

Delivering deworming medication costs 50 cents per child per year in Kenya but yielded a 25 percent increase in school attendance; a similar program in India cost $4 per student per year and yielded a 20 percent attendance gain.

Nearly 40 years ago, a professor who’d taught in Africa told us about the curse of parasitic worms. Students had no energy to learn; workers tired easily.

Getting teachers to show up and teach also makes a big difference. Indian students did much better when “teachers were required to take date-stamped digital pictures of themselves with students each day in order to receive their pay.” Cost of each additional day of teacher attendance: $2.20.

Splitting classes into high and low performers helped both types of students in Kenya. Adding an other teacher was much cheaper than buying laptops.

In rural India, tutors improved the performance of low achievers at very low cost.

Because public schools are so bad in Third World countries (in part, because teachers don’t show up), poor families sacrifice to send their children to private schools with average fees of $3 a month, James Tooley, a British professor, has found.

Tooley estimates that more than 50 percent of urban slum-dwelling children, and nearly 25 percent of children in rural India, where per capita income is less than $2 a day, attend private school, even though public schools are nominally free.

. . . Cutting the cost of such schools in half via subsidies or scholarships, enabling even more parents to be able to afford to send their children (or to send additional children), would cost just $18 per child per year, on average.

Don’t fetishize technology — or anything else — warns Alexander Russo.

Keep It Simple, Smartie is a good slogan too.

Why the poor pay for ‘black-market schools’

Across India, China and Africa, desperately poor parents scrimp to send their children to low-cost private schools, writes James Tooley in his new book, The Beautiful Tree.

Poor parents choose private schools, often with primitive facilities and large classes, because they see their children learning more, Tooley found.

A (Kenyan) father told us: “While most of the teachers in government school are just resting and doing their own things, in private school our teachers are very much busy doing their best, because they know we pay them by ourselves. If they don’t do well they can get the message from the headmistress, of which we cannot allow because we produce ourselves the money, we get it through our own sweat, we cannot allow to throw it away, because you can’t even take the money from the trees, you have to work harder to find it so the teacher must also work harder on our children so that he earns his own living.”

Another father said: “If you go to a market and are offered free fruit and vegetables, they will be rotten. If you want fresh fruit and vegetables, you have to pay for them.”