In sum there are a variety of cases where the theory of the consumer as pre

In sum there are a variety of cases where the theory

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3Billions of dollars have been spent over the past few decades trying toimprove the quality of education in our schools, colleges, and universities.In 1999 alone, the U.S. Department of Education spent about $900 millionin such efforts. Much of this money is spent on research to assess new edu-cational techniques. For example, suppose it is thought that computer-assisted instruction might help students learn better or more quickly. A typical research project to test this hypothesis would be a controlled exper-imentin which one group of students would be taught with the computer-assisted instruction and the other group would be taught without it. Thenstudents in both groups would be tested. If the first group scores signifi-cantly higher, computer-assisted instruction will be deemed successful; if not,it will be deemed unsuccessful. To the disappointment of education researchers,most promising new techniques are found to be unsuccessful: Students seem toscore about the same, no matter which techniques are tried.Economists find these studies highly suspect, since the experimenters treat stu-dents as passive responders to stimuli. Presented with a stimulus (the new tech-nique), students are assumed to give a simple response (scoring higher on the exam).Where in this model, economists ask, are students treated as decision makerslikethe rest of us? In particular, where is the recognition that students must makechoicesabout allocating their scarce time?Let’s apply our model of consumer choice to a student’s time allocation prob-lem. To keep things simple, we’ll assume a bleak world in which there are only two Improving Education 141
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