Session 5: Human Development – Health, Education & Labour Markets (1)

The first presentation by Seema Jayachandran (Northwestern University) tested the premise that gender attitudes are shaped in adolescence. The team is conducting an RCT in Haryana amongst 150 treatment schools and 164 control schools, surveying 14,800 students and 6,100 parents in total. The baseline survey was completed this year, and the team is going to measure the shifted attitudes of students and parents over the next two years. The experiment is using a number of tools to measure attitude shift in order to avoid social desirability bias including direct attitude questions, vignettes and implicit association tests. On average, the baseline survey found that while boys and girls tend to agree with pro-boy and pro-girl attitudes (respectively) in adolescence, girls seem to become more pro-male as they age. As for influence, the paper finds that parent’s gender attitudes affect children’s attitudes and mothers more than fathers. Adolescents are also equally influenced by their classmates. The main policy question here is: how do we ensure pro-girl attitudes persist into adulthood?

The discussant, Ratna Sudarshan (National University of Education Planning and Administration) noted that the goal of the study, to change attitudes to sex-selective abortion, is lofty and that any realistic change over a short period of time is impressive. She also challenged the assumption that richer people have more progressive gender attitudes.

The second presentation by Mehtabul Azam (Oklahoma State University) and Geeta Kingdon (University of London) asks which particular teacher characteristics improve educational achievement. They highlight that in India there have been rapid gains in enrolment and attendance but these have not resulted in skill gain, hence a new focus on teacher quality. Dr. Kingdon looked at two ways of measuring teacher quality: analysing qualifications and training (input based) or looking at their ability to consistently raise test scores of pupils (output based, or teacher value added). The authors used this latter definition and analysed a group of linked private schools in Uttar Pradesh, a total of 8,319 pupils and 191 teachers. Their findings show that there is no evidence that specific qualifications have a substantive impact on teacher quality, giving schools no indication as to who they should hire. However, teacher value added does have a substantive impact, which will help schools in deciding which teachers they should retain. However, Dr. Azam mentioned as a caveat that the study is only based on a small subset of private schools, so generalisability is limited.

The session concluded with Ratna Sudarshan asking the authors to analyse the impact of coaching on student achievement, as she believed too much emphasis was being placed on teacher quality vis a vis other factors that could improve performance.

The session was chaired by J.B.G. Tilak (National University of Education Planning and Administration).

By Helen Sims, Communications Coordinator, IGC Hub