09 SES 06 B, Findings from International Comparative Achievement Studies: Issues in Equity and Inequality
Parallel Paper Session
This paper is focused on inequality of educational achievements. The main objective is to reveal the way economic and institutional characteristics of countries which took part in PIRLS, TIMSS and PISA shape this inequality on both country and individual levels. On the country level the inequality of educational achievementsis defined as difference in scores on international standardized reading, mathematics orscience tests among schoolchildren in different countries. On the individual level theinequality of achievements is considered as the dependence of reading scores on familyand school characteristics (home educational resources, parents’ occupational status,school resources, etc.).
There are two conceptual schemes of inequality in student achievement (Werfhorst et al. 2010). First one defines it as dispersion in achievement tests. The most outstanding followers of this approach are economists Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann who revealed that early tracking increases inequality in achievement (Hanushek et.al 2006). The second conceptual scheme suggests to consider inequality in achievement as inequality of opportunity: “the effect of socioeconomic background on performance, controlled for the exogenous variables” (Horn 2009: 345). Such exogenous variables are the ones measuring stratification and standardization of educational systems according to the framework developed by Allmendinger (Allmendinger 1989). The key variable indicating the level of educational systems’ stratification is age of first selection, which strongly associates with the socioeconomic background effect. As Pfeffer points out, an educational system is considered highly stratified if children are separated into different types of schools at an early age. Some of the schools are “dead-end” pathways that don’t allow them to obtain higher education (Pfeffer 2008).
Theory by Richard Breen and John Goldthorpe touches upon class differentials in educational attainment. They developed a rational choice model which represents children and their parents as subjectively rational actors choosing from different educational options available to them. Given certain amounts of resources and being exposed to institutional constraints (educational systems), families in service and working classes “seek to ensure … that their children acquire a class position at least as advantageous as that from they originate or, in other words, they seek to avoid downward social mobility” (Breen et al. 1997: 283). Family resources, which often correspond to parents’ socio-economic status, are considered as primary effects shaping educational differentials. As there are similarly persisting inequalities in the resources that members of different classes possess and aversion to the risk of downward social mobility, educational differentials remain rather persistent.
Raftery and Hout support the thesis about maximally maintained inequality: the class effects on educational attainment increase when the public support for a given stage of education declines. Moreover, there is no competition between families on universal stages of education (Raftery et al. 1993). S. Lucas, on the contrary, provides evidence for the "effectively maintained inequality" concept: social background matters on any stage of education, because it allocates students to different types of education (tracks) within one educational level (Lucas 2001).
1. Allmedinger, J. Educational systems and labour market outcomes // European Sociological Review. 1989. Vol. 5 (3). 2. Baye, A., Monseur, C. Equity of achievement: a matter of education structures? // The Second IEA International Research Conference: proceedings of the IRC – 2006. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. 3. Breen, R., Buchmann, M. Institutional variation and the position of young people: a comparative perspective //Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 2002. Vol. 580. 4. Breen, R., Goldthorpe, J. Explaining educational differentials: towards a formal rational action theory // Rationality and Society. 1997. Vol. 9 (3). 5. Brint, S. (2006) Schools and societies Stanford: Stanford University Press. 6. Hanushek, E., Woessmann, L Does educational tracking affect performance and inequality? Differences-in-differences evidence across countries // The Economic Journal. 2006. Vol. 116. 7. Horn, D. Age of selection counts: a cross-country analysis of educational institutions // Educational Research and Evaluation. 2009. Vol. 15 (4). 8. IEA (The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement). http://www.iea.nl 9. Lucas S. Effectively maintained inequality: education transitions, track mobility, and social background effects // American Journal of Sociology. 2001. Vol. 106 (6). 10. Pfeffer, F. Persistent inequality in educational attainment and its institutional context // European Sociological Review. 2008. Vol. 4 (5). 11. PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). http://www.pisa.oecd.org/ 12. Raftery, A., Hout, M. Maximally maintained inequality: expansion, reform, and opportunity in Irish education, 1921-75 // Sociology of Education. 1993. Vol. 66 (1). 13. Werfhorst, H., Mijs, J. Achievement inequality and the institutional structure of educational systems: a comparative perspective. //Annual Review of Sociology. 2010. 14. Woessman, L. Schooling resources, educational institutions and schooling performance: the international evidence // Oxford Bulletin of Economic and Statistics. 2003. Vol. 65 (2).
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