The Effect of Schooling on Academic Achievement Across Countries with Different Systems of Tracking: Evidence from the 2009 PISA
Posted: 14 Jul 2013
Date Written: June 1, 2013
Although results from international tests may be a valid and comparable measure of knowledge acquisition up until the 8th grade (TIMSS) or until 15 years old (PISA), they are often misinterpreted as measuring the relative quality of schooling in different countries. Such interpretations are made despite the fact that students may have entered schooling with differing levels of achievement due to different parental or state investments in early childhood. A better comparison of the quality of schooling is how much a year of schooling in each country contributes to academic achievement. The goal of our study therefore is to estimate and compare the effect of a year of schooling on student achievement across several national education systems. In doing so, we also seek to examine how the effect varies across national education systems with different ways of tracking students into vocational versus general schooling. To estimate the effects, we use 2009 PISA data on four European countries and an instrumental variables strategy based on the fuzzy regression discontinuity design. We find that in three of the four countries, a year of schooling has positive impacts on student achievement in math, science, and reading. We also find that the positive effects of a year of schooling primarily pertain to students that enter the general (academic) track. In all but one of the countries, the effect of a year of schooling on achievement is negligible or even negative for students who eventually enter the vocational track. Among other things, the findings imply that if we want to compare different national educational systems fairly, we need to take into account the nature and purpose of educational tracking across countries.
Keywords: PISA, effects of schooling, vocational, Europe, tracking
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation