1. The rise of fee-charging private schools in Bangladesh
Summary: This study hopes to determine the size of the fee-charging private school sector in Bangladesh. There has been a rapid expansion in this sector in India and Pakistan. My research will help to determine the sector's contribution to improving educational access in Bangladesh. The study aims to provide an overview of recent trends in private schools in Bangladesh, assess their role in primary education provision in urban areas. This research will also shed light on factors that determine location choice of non-profit and fee-charging private schools in Bangladesh. (Upcoming presentation at CIES 2017 Conference).
2. Evaluation of various programs of BRAC targeting adolescents and youths in Bangladesh
Summary: I'm collaborating with BRAC to evaluate the impact of the Adolescent Development Program which provides safe space for youth males and females in the community irrespective of whether they are in school or not.
3. The skills shortage and the payoff to vocational vs. general education in Bangladesh
Summary: Given Bangladesh's growing youth population, creating jobs has become an important policy goal. But it is also recognized that the youths need to have access to skill development programs to prepare adequately for the labor market. In this context, I am looking at the role of vocational training vis-a-vis general education system in order to determine which plays the most important role of youth skill development in the transition to work.
4. The economics of child marriage
Summary: Child marriage is a global problem affecting development countries that are at different stages of economic development. This raises questions about the underlying cause of the problem as well as its solutions. I have a number of ongoing studies in collaboration with colleagues from BRAC and Dr Wahhaj of University of Kent on the issue. While primarily focusing on Bangladesh and Afghanistan, I'm also interested in understanding the regional differences (e.g. Africa vs Asia) and in the process of writing a paper documenting these differences. Ongoing studies on South Asia focus no the cause (poverty, lack of agency, climate change) as well as consequences (educational outcomes, empowerment, social attitudes and social networks). On solutions, I've just finished a paper (with Sajeda Amin of Population Council, Barrister Sara Hossain of Bangladesh Supreme Court and Dr Zaki Wahhaj of Kent University) on the effectiveness of conditional cash transfers (and benefit-cost ratio analysis driven solutions as popularized by the Copenhagen Consensus Centre) to eliminate child marriage -- "Can Conditional Transfers Eradicate Child Marriage?" A companion paper recently published in the Economic and Political Weekly emphasizes the importance of improving adolescent agency instead of seeking legal solutions to the problem. Another related study is looking at how interventions that educate girls about their rights and harmful effect of early marriage can help eradicate child marriage.
5. Textbooks and test scores in Bangladesh
Summary: Over the past decades many developing countries have succeeded in increasing primary school enrolment. But increased quantity has not always been matched with improvement in quality. Education in developing countries including Bangladesh is often hindered by low contact hours at school. A number of factors are responsible for low contact hours. In case of Bangladesh, delay in the delivery of textbook causes teaching activities to start late. Obtaining textbooks privately also increases the cost of school attendance. The Government of Bangladesh is hopeful that textbook provision will improve test scores, encouraging higher grade attainment and overall improved educational outcomes. But there is no empirical evidence as to whether providing textbooks free and on-time alone can overcome the effects of other systemic problems such as crowded classrooms and teacher absenteeism. We look at this issue using data on textbook delivery to schools and subsequent performance of students in maths and language tests. This research will also help guide policies in many African countries where textbooks are yet to be delivered unversally free of cost.
6. School governance and educational outcomes: A look across Bangladeshi districts
Summary: I'm studying why certain districts in Bangladesh rank poorly in terms of educational performance and school governance structure and what can be done about it.
7. Gender inequality and education
Summary: Most commentators view increased schooling exposure as key to ending gender inequality in the society. Governments routinely favor policies that involve hiring more teachers and building more schools. However, this approach ignores the fact that there are hidden institutional sources of gender inequality in the education sector. This research therefore tackles a number of these hidden sources. One study compares gender views of students and teachers of across different institutional types (Quomi madrasas vis-a-vis state-supported madrasas and schools) in rural Bangladesh. The other is looking at gender biases in school curriculum and textbooks across provider types and countries.
8. Evaluating the impact of BRAC’s ultra-poor program
Summary: With Jinat Ara of BRAC, I am looking at the impact of BRAC's program on food security and other selected outcome variables. The research adds to the growing literature on the correlates of extreme poverty in low income countries. Together with results from studies for other low income countries, the evidence points towards an emerging consensus on the effectiveness of the asset transfer programme. At the same time, attention is drawn to understanding the larger socio-economic context in which impact is evaluated.
9. Middle-income trap in East Asia & China
Summary: This body of research examines a specific explanation for three East Asian economies - Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia - to remain stuck in middle income status. I study the reasons why the education system in these countries is failing improve learning outcomes and prepare the workforce for a high performing economy that can facilitate transition to high value added activities.
In this connection, the experience of China is also contrasted. I am keen to understand how China has leveraged education, health and labor market policies to graduate from low income to upper middle income status and in this context, how these policy changes are impacting various welfare and well-being outcomes at the individual level. Implication of these policies for China's transition to high income status is also studied.