Original post by David McKenzie, Lead Economist in the World Bank's Development Research Group, can be found on the Development Impact Blog. Visit this link for David's original announcement and survey.
Earlier this year I blogged about a research project I was beginning with Anna Luisa Paffhausen, that had the aim of seeing how development economics is taught in developing countries. Thanks in part to the help of our readers, we were able to collect a combination of syllabi, surveys, and exams from 145 undergraduate courses in 54 developing countries, and 81 masters courses in 34 developing countries. We then benchmarked these against undergraduate development classes taught in the U.S. at top-20 and non-top-20 programs. We now have a preliminary draft paper which I thought I’d share and see if our readers have comments. I summarize some of the key findings and recommendations below:
What is taught as development economics?
We measure the similarity between each developing country course and courses at top-20 U.S. schools and see what country and instructor characteristics are correlated with this degree of similarity. We find courses in poorer countries are less like those in top U.S. schools (see Figure below), as are courses in countries with a higher share of government involvement in the economy and countries with lower overall educational attainment. Instructors who are actively involved in research are more likely to have their courses closer to the frontier.
What could be done better?
The field of development economics has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. This is reflected in changes in the topics that command most research attention, and particularly in the rapid growth in data availability and empirical analysis. Our survey of how development economics is being taught in developing countries suggests that many classes have not kept pace with this change, and are not meeting key student learning goals of teaching students to be critical users and analyzers of data to answer economic questions. This is important since the next generation of policymakers responsible for implementing key development policies are likely to have their views of what policies they should pursue heavily influenced by what they have been taught.
We have several suggestions for how instructors can improve the teaching of development economics in developing countries (as well as in a number of developed country schools), but this is also where we would love reader feedback of good/innovative ways the subject is being taught:
We would love to hear from any instructors or students who have comments or ideas on this. Thanks.