The efficient provision of public services is one of the milestones that guarantees the well-being of nations in the long run. At a time with tight financial control over public spending, accountability to society regarding the results of public spending is essential. Inefficiency in the provision of public services suggests that tax money is being wasted (instead of being used elsewhere in the economy) or that citizens could have been offered higher quality and quantity of services. Thus, assessing the efficiency of public services is at the top of the agenda of governments to ensure the competitiveness, prosperity and social cohesion of countries.
As countries struggle to respond to economic, environmental, social and public health challenges, human capital has become the most valuable asset of our time. The shock waves caused by COVID-19 have affected the functioning of societies, and education has not been spared. Confinements have disrupted mainstream education, and the impact of these measures on the future of younger generations, especially the most vulnerable, is a serious concern.
The performance of education systems will be the main area explored in this project. Although several countries are currently participating in international large-scale assessments to monitor educational outcomes in basic and secondary education (PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS), the potential of using frontier techniques to assess achievements at other stages of education, taking into account the heterogeneity of contextual conditions and country-specific regulatory frameworks, remains to be explored.
The main goal of this project is to develop innovative ways to evaluate the performance of education systems, allowing a fair and robust comparison of EU countries/regions. A temporal analysis of performance trends will be carried out, covering all educational stages (from pre-primary education to lifelong learning), whilst exploring complementary dimensions of performance (effectiveness, equity). Efficiency in the achievement of expected results, taking into account the resources allocated, will also be analyzed. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the performance of education systems will also be explored, in order to guide the allocation of the funds available to the areas facing the greatest difficulties.
The topic of public service performance, where education is one of the key sectors alongside health and justice, is usually addressed in the literature using frontier techniques, given the multidimensional nature of the expected outcomes. Most studies were conducted within countries for a specific temporal moment. The results may reveal heterogeneity in efficiency levels between individual providers (e.g., schools) and suggest ways to “calibrate” the level of efficiency and effectiveness among all providers of a specific service and therefore increase equity of treatment among citizens. This project will extend the scope of the studies to enable international comparisons, as well as evaluations over time, to detect trends and assess the impact of disruptive events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to improving the resilience of systems. The models developed will be applied to real data, promoting continuous improvement through the knowledge of international best practices.
From a methodological perspective, this project seeks the enrichment of the literature through new tools for measuring efficiency, effectiveness and equity, through the combined use of non-parametric frontier techniques (Data Envelopment Analysis) with statistical approaches. Methodological refinements will be designed for performance evaluation with time series, as a way to quantify convergence between different geographies (regions/countries). Special emphasis will be given to the development of models that can serve as decision support in the definition of public policies, promoting a better understanding of the disaggregated information provided by individual indicators on the results, resources and context of educational processes. Special attention will also be given to the integration of the decision-makers opinions in the performance evaluation, exploring the use of Multicriteria Decision Techniques.