There are approximately 70.8 million forcibly-displaced people worldwide, including 26 million registered refugees, about half of whom are children. Turkey has received more than 3.5 million refugees since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, making it the country with the highest number of Syrian refugees. More than 1 million Syrian children live in Turkey as of 2020. To encourage access to education, the Turkish Ministry of Education made state schooling available to refugee children. However, many Turkish residents worry that this policy harms the school environment by increasing peer violence and facilitating social segregation along ethnic lines. Faced with these new challenges, teachers need guidance on how to maintain the quality of the learning environment.
Well-developed social skills are vital to building not only cohesive classrooms but also communities and economies, as they allow members of society to communicate effectively and work together. One of these skills is perspective: taking, or viewing a situation from the perspective of another person. This process has been shown to lower social aggression, encourage trust, and increase cooperation. Especially in societies such as Turkey’s that contain ethnically distinct groups, these skills may need to be actively developed in children, and public education may play a critical role in helping to develop them.
To test how perspective-taking can improve interactions among different ethnic groups in diverse classrooms, Sule Alan (European University Institute, J-PAL), Ceren Baysan (University of Essex), Mert Gumren (Koc University), and Elif Kubilay (University of Essex) partnered with the Ministry of Education in Turkey to conduct a randomized evaluation of a curriculum called “Understanding Each Other” (UEO).
The researchers evaluate the impact of an educational program that aims to build social cohesion in ethnically mixed schools by developing perspective-taking ability in children. The program is implemented in Turkish elementary schools affected by a large influx of Syrian refugee children. The research team measures a comprehensive set of outcomes that characterize a cohesive school environment, including peer violence incidents, the prevalence of inter-ethnic social ties, and prosocial behavior. Using randomized variation in program implementation, the researchers find that the program significantly lowers peer violence and victimization on school grounds. The program also reduces the likelihood of social exclusion and increases inter-ethnic social ties in the classroom. The researchers find that the program significantly improves prosocial behavior, measured by incentivized tasks: treated students exhibit significantly higher trust, reciprocity, and altruism toward each other as well as toward anonymous out-school peers. The researchers show that this enhanced prosociality is welfare improving from the ex-post payoff perspective. The researchers investigate multiple channels that could explain the results, including ethnic bias, impulsivity, empathetic concern, emotional intelligence, behavioral norms, and perspective-taking. Children’s increased effort to take others’ perspectives emerges as the most robust mechanism to explain the results.
The pricing and advertising of tied add-ons and overages have come under increasing scrutiny. Working with a large Turkish bank to test SMS direct marketing promotions to 108,000 existing holders of “free” checking accounts, we find that promoting a large discount on the 60% APR charged for overdrafts reduces overdraft usage. In contrast, messages mentioning overdraft availability without mentioning price increase usage. Neither change persists long after messages stop, suggesting that induced overdrafting is not habit-forming. We discuss implications for interventions to promote transparency in pricing and advertising, and for models of shrouded equilibria, limited attention, and salience.