The number of papers presented at the ECER-conference has increased over the last couple of years. In Crete, 15 papers concerning different topics were presented in five sessions. The topics covered a broad range from Pisa assessments for certain countries, incentive structures and changes, financing models and education production functions. We had econometric papers as well as more descriptive and conceptual ones. Approximately 60 participants visited the network sessions, which is again more than in previous years. The following gives a short overview on some of them.
Some papers were related to education production functions, aiming at the identification of factors (teacher qualification, class size, student teacher ratio etc.) that are contributing or even explaining student outcomes in student achievement tests, such as TIMSS, PISA or PIRLS. The particular sessions comprised papers from the UK and Greece.
A related issue questions as to how and based on which criteria parents and students select a particular school or university and/or how certain policy changes affect students' decisions. The paper concerned college students from Cyprus which to some extent take into account some indicators when selecting their college. However, a major question in this respect for the future is whether and to what extent those decisions are based on easy to identify indicators or whether these are well informed choices. This question seems also of interest in relation to the functioning and modeling of funding systems etc.
Three papers from the Centre for the Economics of Education (UK) were presented. One reported that the intergenerational mobility, indicating that between two decades of birth cohorts (1958 and 1970) ability had declined relative to parental income as a predictor of educational attainment. The second paper was on the effect of credit constraints on the decision to participate in post- compulsory education and the third on the extent to which schools in England receive additional funding for socially disadvantaged pupils.
Other papers referred to the financing of higher education or for lifelong learning. Based on the present debate in Germany, where vouchers and tuition fees in general and specified models are discussed, a particular model combining vouchers and tuition fees as an approach to generally reform the HE funding system was presented. However, the discussion revealed that there may be no clear first best solution since each approach has incentives and disincentives.
The paper concerning the financing of lifelong learning presented an overview about the present modes of funding in Germany's education system and its distributional effects. It became obvious that redistribution is taking place over the whole system of education, starting at the pre-primary level. This is due to the participation structure that is increasing with parental education and socio-economic status and to financial disincentive effects. For the future this highlights the importance of establishing an overall funding scheme that is combined with other activities, such as information and advice etc. This is particularly important since the demographic change requests that younger generations earn higher educational degrees.
A paper discussed the usefulness of Structural Equation Models with latent variables in the assessment of the effects of education investment on job satisfaction. The reason is that the standard technique in the literature (i.e. single-equation discrete ordered choice models) neglects the covariance structure of data. It is well known that the main determinants of satisfaction such as individual characteristics (including education and health) and job attributes (including income and worked hours) are not independent from each other. Consequently, a multi-equation approach through SEM appears as more appropriate to capture the links among the determinants of job satisfaction. A comparison of estimates using both the standard technique and the one proposed was also provided. The total, direct and indirect impacts of education level, and of the match between education and employment, on satisfaction with diverse specific aspects of work as well as on overall job satisfaction were estimated using a representative sample of Spanish workers.
Another paper used data from a sample of European higher education graduates at early stages of their working careers to provide evidence on the determinants of the human capital competences (talents, skills and capabilities) acquired by young graduates in Education and of those required by the jobs they perform. The data set was taken from a major representative survey comparing the situation of European higher education graduates. More than 36,000 graduates holding a first higher education degree were surveyed about four years after graduation (graduates from 1995 were surveyed in 1999). The CHEERS data set (Careers after Higher Education – A European Research Survey) included graduates from eleven European countries: Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Czech Republic. The paper examined in detail a number of human capital competences of the graduates and their utilisation on the job, as well as the extent to which the graduates considered their position and tasks linked to their educational careers. Indicators of the job search, the transition period from higher education to employment and the employment situation during the first years after graduation were also considered. Questions on the socio-biographic background of the students, on the study conditions and provisions and the grades awarded upon graduation were raised as well in order to determine the extent to which these factors might explain varying employment and work paths of graduates.
For the future, we are open for any topic and paper that contributes to the economic perspective of education. In addition we particularly welcome papers that refer to the following topics:
Educational production functions: With the presentation of the PISA 2003 and TIMSS 2003 and the availability of data, a new round will commence, and possibly enable inter-temporale comparisons.
Educational Management: In recent years the management of educational institutions has become more and more important since the responsibilities have changed. The investigation of its consequences is as important as the distribution of new experiences and approaches.
European trends in education financing: It appears that the funding schemes are changing and have already changed in Europe, although neither in all countries nor everywhere in the same direction. It seems therefore of particular interest to review the "new" schemes and the experiences linked to their introduction. There is no restriction child care/nursery education as equally of interest as school, higher education and VET. Lifelong learning may be considered either as adult education or further training or as covering education from the cradle to the grave.
Internal efficiency of education systems: This theme covers a broad range of topics. Starting from questions that are related to educational production functions and structural questions as well as financing modalities and the question on supply versus demand driven systems and competition.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the network meeting revealed that the participants are interested in papers covering the whole range and even those topics that may be considered at the margin of education economics.