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Our research approach

From the standpoint of economics, the education system, whether it is set up like a market or not, has actors who have goals and constraints and who interact in one form or another of supply and demand relationship. Understanding the incentives and constraints of all the different players, and their interactions, is essential to strong policy design. As these can only be understood through attention to outcomes, the role of evidence is, or ought to be, central for policy improvment.

In terms of a theory of change, this might be expressed as

Evidence ► Policy design ► Implementation and research ► Educational (and other) outcomes ► Analysis ► Policy improvement

For strong policy design, those involved in informing policymaking need to be able to offer well-developed theoretical frameworks, articulate research questions/hypotheses, and effectively deploy methodologies that will contribute to their theorticial refinement, substantiation or refuting.   

While many disciplines contribute to our understanding of education, economic analysis can offer key insights for policy-makers. It has a strongly quantitative approach, and a clear framework for understanding the decisions and actions of all the relevant actors. Most importantly, it brings a relentless focus on trying to establish causal links between policy variables and outcomes.

Our research priorities are informed by an ongoing process of monitoring developments in the field, consultation with experts, updating and refinement.

We look for issues/questions that are:

  • under-researched, or poorly researched – research questions that may be well-theorised, or not, or poorly evidenced, whether from the perspective of the scarcity of research on the topic, or its quality;
  • policy relevant - research questions that need to be prioritised due to their particular relevance to global education reform, for developed economies, low to middle income countries, or for specific country contexts.

When questions are put to us by sponsors for research, they are submitted to just the same process of research reflection, consultation, and refinement. Often they need recasting, and sponsors inducting in economic research methods, but the processes of origination, and review, are the same.

Given the often poor quality of much research in education, and with the field opening up to new directions all the time, there is no shortage of potential projects. We explore the most significant advances in our monthly and annual research digests, in our in-depth policy studies, on the CfEE research blog, at our events, and in our media work.