We are very happy to announce that Prof Kristof de Witte, our chair in Effectiveness and Efficiency of Educational Innovations, has been named Laureate of the Academy – Humanities 2020 by the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. This is the academy’s most prestigious award and is only the second time that the award has gone to an economist.
Kristof, who is based at KU Leuven across the border in Belgium, explains how: “As an educational economist, I examine education from an economic perspective. Education economics studies the choices that impact the change in human capital. That is the knowledge, skills and attitudes of people. My research fits in the evidence-based part of this. Evidence-based education suggests that we should analyse the impact of innovations, which should also be rooted in existing evidence.
“Before implementing innovations on a larger scale, we should examine their impacts through small-scale experiments and quasi-experiments. In experiments, researchers randomly assign schools or pupils to control an experimental group. In quasi-experiments, we exploit policy changes to construct a good control and experimental group.
“Thanks to experimental and quasi-experimental research, we can deduce strong causal conclusions on the impact of innovations. Next, I also pay significant attention to efficiency and cost efficiency in education. Therefore, I develop models to estimate efficiency in education. More into detail, together with my team, I run large-scale experiments to examine the effectiveness of teaching methods that aim to increase financial literacy: the effects of differentiation methods, parental involvement and professional development of teachers. Moreover, using quasi-experiments, I assess the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on standardised learning outcomes of pupils, examine of family structures matter for learning outcomes, and how early school leaving can be reduced.
“Together with my team, I test the impact of additional resources for equal education opportunities, study how insights from behavioural economics can be implemented, and estimate the effects of international higher education students on society. Next to excellent scholarship, the ultimate goal of my research is to provide policymakers insight and the tools they can use to increase learning outcomes — and this in the most efficient way.”
The Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts (KVAB) was founded in 1772, with a view to investigating and debating matters of social, scientific and artistic importance in an open and interdisciplinary manner.
Congratulations Kristof De Witte! Laureate of the Academy – Humanities 2020 for his research in Education Economics. @DeWitteK @FEBkuleuven @KU_Leuven @_KVAB https://t.co/vNvnaTWbJp pic.twitter.com/nptayEFA3K
— FEB KU Leuven (@FEBkuleuven) November 9, 2020
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.