Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow

Mauricio Romero

Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM)

Research Focus

Mauricio Romero works on a wide range of policy alternatives to improve learning outcomes in developing countries. For example, he has studied the effect of additional resources to schools, providing incentives to teachers, improving the management capacities of principals, using public-private partnerships in education, and using peer tutoring and ICT to provide personalized learning to students. His work spans three continents (e.g., Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Liberia, Mexico, and Tanzania) and is mainly based on large field experiments in representative samples. This allows him to study the efficiency and equity of these policies as implemented at scale.  

My plans for the Fellowship

I hope to make progress in four areas. The first is whether the private sector can be leveraged to improve learning outcomes (and how). Nearly 20% of children in Latin America, the Caribbean, and South Asia attend private schools that often cater to low-income families. While there is some evidence that private schools can deliver better outcomes for children, it is not yet clear how the private sector can help contribute to the equity and efficiency of the education system as a whole. 

Second, on understanding early childhood education markets in developing countries. This includes understanding competition between private and public providers, how parents react to quality, and how to improve access to high-quality preschool education for poorer families.  

Third, I work on how to leverage ICT to provide children a personalized learning experience. While previous literature has consistently shown that interventions that tailor teaching to students’ learning levels have the largest effects on learning outcomes across different settings, teachers often lack the time (or incentives) to give children personalized instruction tailored to their needs and provide schools with extra teachers to do so is expensive. I have several projects in this area, broadly trying to figure out cost-effective ways to do this, mainly by relying on EduTech. 

Finally, I study the effects of pollution on learning outcomes. I have a series of projects studying the effects of particulate matter on learning outcomes and how to mitigate these effects (e.g., with HEPA filters). I’m also studying the effects of lead and noise pollution on learning. 

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives? 

My research aims to understand how to better use financial resources in schools and education systems (as well as the limited time children are at school). I hope that by making my work accessible to policymakers (e.g., by writing policy briefs and presenting results to different stakeholders), future policymakers and other stakeholders can make evidence-based decisions that improve children’s educational and later-in-life outcomes.