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follow my research at www.feb.kuleuven.be/kristof.dewitte

Goal: As a director of LEER, Leuven Economics of Education Research, my research aims for state-of-the-art academic research on education and education-labour market issues with economic tools.

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Kristof De Witte
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Sugary drinks in schools have been demonized for their potential long-term contribution to rising obesity rates. Surprisingly, there is only little evidence on the immediate effects of sugary drinks in schools. This paper provides experimental evidence on the in-class effects of sugary drinks on behavior and student achievement. We randomly assigned 462 preschool children to receive sugary drinks or artificially sweetened drinks and collected data before and after consumption. Our findings suggest that the consumption of one sugary drink induces an initial 'relaxing' effect for boys, before making them more restless. Girls' behavior is not significantly affected. We find a negative effect on student achievement for boys and a positive effect for girls. We show the robustness of the results across two field experiments.
Kristof De Witte
added a research item
This report provides an overview on the potential mechanisms that resulted in learning losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It also summarises the first empirical findings of studies using standardised test scores collected in June 2020 (after the first wave of school closures) and September 2020 (after a summer holiday break, and a first period of less restrictions). Finally, it outlines the policy response in terms of additional education funding in EU Member States. Overall, the results suggest a substantial decline in test scores for students in compulsory education. The observed decline seems larger if measured immediately after the first wave of school closures (June 2020). Comparing the estimated effects before and after the summer break, the available evidence suggests that the learning losses are already partly mitigated by September 2020. This might be due to remediating policy actions (e.g. summer schools, tutoring) or to a lower psychological impact of the crisis. Nevertheless, even by September 2020, the estimates in most countries remain large and significant. Given that human capital formation has been linked to income (Chetty et al., 2014), employment (Currie and Thomas, 2001), and general prosperity (Hanushek and Woessmann, 2020), and given that theoretical models suggest that learning losses might accumulate over time (Kaffenberger, 2020) close monitoring of the learning losses is necessary. As a response to the crisis, many EU Member States increased the education budget to fund short- and long-term remediation actions. The additional funding we could identify ranges from EUR 2 per student in Slovakia to EUR 2 795 per student in the Netherlands. The median is EURO 163. If we relate these amounts to current spending, we find that this corresponds to an increase in public spending on education of between 0.05 % in Slovakia and 32 % in the Netherlands. The median increase is approximately 3 %. Overall, the results suggest that the funding concentrates on ICT provision and general, non-earmarked funding. Several countries realised that current ICT availability and competences were not adequate to organise distance learning and decided to invest in upgrading ICT equipment and tools. For several countries, this may be an opportunity to embrace the potential advantages of digital learning tools and to use them to enhance learning.
Kristof De Witte
added a research item
The school closures owing to the 2020 COVID-19 crisis resulted in a significant disruption of education provision leading to fears of learning losses and of an increase in educational inequality. This paper evaluates the effects of school closures based on standardised tests in the last year of primary school in Flemish schools in Belgium. The data covers a large sample of Flemish schools over a period of six years from 2015 to 2020. We find that students of the 2020 cohort experienced significant learning losses in all tested subjects, with a decrease in school averages of mathematics scores of 0.19 standard deviations and Dutch scores of 0.29 standard deviations as compared to the previous cohort. This finding holds when accounting for school characteristics, standardised tests in grade 4, and school fixed effects. Moreover, we observe that inequality within schools rises by 17% for math and 20% for Dutch. Inequality between schools rises by 7% for math and 18% for Dutch. The learning losses are correlated with observed school characteristics as schools with a more disadvantaged student population experience larger learning losses.
Kristof De Witte
added 2 research items
This paper offers the first large-scale comparative analysis of pupils’ and teachers’ perspectives on homosexuality using two waves (2013 and 2017) of self-collected data through questionnaires issued in eight European countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Spain, Poland, Hungary and Turkey. Using these unique data we examine to what extent differences prevail across countries and what mechanism explains the differences. Our results indicate significant differences across countries. Moreover, although we observe a positive trend between the two waves of the survey, in some countries the general climate towards homosexuality is reversing.
Kristof De Witte
added a research item
This paper constructs an innovative approach to measure school district organizational effectiveness. We use the fully nonparametric Benefit-of-the-Doubt approach to construct a composite indicator which reduces subjectivity in choosing weights attached to different functions of school districts. The model is extended to reduce the influence of outliers (robust) and to account for the exogenous environment (conditional). We apply the suggested technique to unique and self-collected data from surveys and interviews taken from school board members and principals. We illustrate why accounting for respondent characteristics is crucial when evaluating school districts. Next, we analyze the obtained aggregate measures to identify which organizational structures, board characteristics and management styles are of importance for the organizational effectiveness of school districts.
Kristof De Witte
added 2 research items
Via het Beleidsdomein Werk wordt een breed gamma van opleidingen aangeboden aan werkzoekenden, werknemers en ondernemers. De aanbieders zijn in dit geval VDAB en SYNTRA Vlaanderen. De overheid heeft er belang bij om inzicht te hebben in de effectiviteit en efficiëntie van de opleidingen, om te kunnen beslissen over het al dan niet verder gaan met het gevoerde beleid (en op welke manier). De realiteit is echter zo dat we op dit moment weinig weten over de effectiviteit en efficiëntie van opleidingen in het domein Werk. Dit rapport is bedoeld om de overheid en de aanbieders van opleidingen in het beleidsdomein Werk inzicht te geven in het meten van de effectiviteit en efficiëntie van opleidingen. Eerst bieden we inzicht in het rendement van opleidingen. Rendement kan bekeken worden vanuit verschillende perspectieven (de persoon die de opleiding gevolgd heeft, het bedrijf dat personen die opleiding gevolgd hebben rekruteert of wil rekruteren, de overheid en de samenleving). Daarna gaan we in op de rendementsmetingen die nu uitgevoerd worden door VDAB en door SYNTRA Vlaanderen. We zien dat de huidige rendementsmetingen beperkt zijn. Door op een gepaste manier gebruik te maken van goede methoden voor effectiviteits- en efficiëntie-analyse kan met de beschikbare data veel meer inzicht gekregen worden in het rendement van de opleidingen dan nu het geval is. Dit rapport geeft een overzicht van de beschikbare methoden. De kwaliteitsaspecten die in het oog moeten worden gehouden bij registratie en dataverzameling worden eveneens behandeld. Omdat het interessant kan zijn om (ad hoc) bijkomende data te verzamelen om een aantal aspecten van rendement op een meer diepgaande manier te bekijken, geven we ook zicht op indicatoren en meetinstrumenten die hiervoor gebruikt kunnen worden. Het opzetten van een goede effect- of efficiëntiemeting vereist dat op een systematische manier een aantal keuzes gemaakt worden. Hiervoor bieden we een stappenplan. Het rapport eindigt met een aantal globale aanbevelingen om ervoor te zorgen dat er een goed fundament is voor rendementsmetingen.
Kristof De Witte
added 6 research items
The objective of this paper is to assess the influence of public subsidies on farm technical efficiency using recent advances in nonparametric efficiency analysis. To this end, we use robust conditional frontier techniques as well as insights from recent developments in nonparametric econometrics. The paper contributes to the ongoing methodological discussion on how to model the effect of public subsidies on farmers’ production decisions. The analysis is conducted using an unbalanced panel data of 1,604 observations from 313 French farms located in the French region Meuse over the period 2006-2011. The estimates indicate that public subsidies influence negatively the conditional technical efficiency of farms. This suggests that public subsidies affect both the range of the attainable set for the inputs and outputs and the distribution of the efficiency scores inside the attainable set.
The abundance of data and the rise of new quantitative and statistical techniques have created a promising area: data analytics. This combination of a culture of data-driven decision making and techniques to include domain knowledge allows organizations to exploit big data analytics in their evaluation and decision processes. Also, in education and learning, big data analytics is being used to enhance the learning process, to evaluate efficiency, to improve feedback, and to enrich the learning experience. As every step a student takes in the online world can be traced, analyzed, and used, there are plenty of opportunities to improve the learning process of students. First, data analytics techniques can be used to enhance the student’ s learning process by providing real-time feedback, or by enriching the learning experience. Second, data analytics can be used to support the instructor or teacher. Using data analytics, the instructor can better trace, and take targeted actions to improve, the learning process of the student. Third, there are possibilities in using data analytics to measure the performance of instructors. Finally, for policy makers, it is often unclear how schools use their available resources to "produce" outcomes. By combining structured and unstructured data from various sources, data analytics might provide a solution for governments that aim to monitor the performance of schools more closely. Data analytics in education should not be the domain of a single discipline. Economists should discuss the possibilities, issues, and normative questions with a multidisciplinary team of pedagogists, philosophers, computer scientists, and sociologists. By bringing together various disciplines, a more comprehensive answer can be formulated to the challenges ahead. This book starts this discussion by highlighting some economic perspectives on the use of data analytics in education. The book begins a rich, multidisciplinary discussion that may make data analytics in education seem as natural as a teacher in front of a classroom.
Kristof De Witte
added 2 research items
This paper examines whether the closure of poor performing primary schools improved students' educational attainment. It is believed that school closure affects children's educational outcomes positively because children switch to better primary schools. At the same time, school closure creates a social disturbance such that educational outcomes may be affected negatively. There is no previous literature on the effect of this type of school closure on student performance. The empirical results indicate that student test scores are not affected by the school closure. Children are, however, tracked into higher secondary education levels after the school closure if they received more education years at the new primary school. This effect fades out and eventually becomes negative for children who received more than one education year at the new primary school. The results further suggest that there are no detrimental effects of a school closure in terms of educational performance.
This paper reviews the growing literature on early school leaving. We clarify what is at stake with early school leaving, and touch upon underlying problems and methodological issues raised in the literature. The paper investigates the levels, the methods and models with which the topic has been studied, and discusses potential (dis)advantages of each of those. We focus on early school leaving in all its complexity, and on the interplay of relevant (levels of) factors, rather than on just certain factors, typically located in individual students, schools or families. The findings in the literature are discussed and placed into perspective. Finally, a wide set of policy measures are discussed.
Kristof De Witte
added an update
Kristof De Witte
added a project goal
As a director of LEER, Leuven Economics of Education Research, my research aims for state-of-the-art academic research on education and education-labour market issues with economic tools.