The Effect of a Specialized versus a General Upper Secondary School Curriculum on Students’ Performance and Inequality. A Difference-in-Differences Cross Country Country Comparison

Document de treball de l’IEB 2016/16

28 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2016 Last revised: 15 Sep 2016

See all articles by Afonso Leme

Afonso Leme

New University of Lisbon - Nova School of Business and Economics

Josep Oriol Escardibul Ferrá

University of Barcelona

Date Written: June 1, 2016

Abstract

Countries differ in their upper secondary school systems in a way that some require their students to choose a specialization from a set of areas - typically natural sciences, economic sciences, humanities or arts - and follow that specialization for the course of their upper secondary education years (e.g. Portugal, Spain, Sweden) whereas by contrast, others including Finland, Denmark or the U.S. follow a general curriculum where students, albeit being able to choose between different classes in distinct areas, are not required to follow a single specialization and thus, receive a more general education. Because countries only follow one system or the other, a cross-country analysis is required to estimate the possible effects of these institutional differences. An international differences-in-differences approach is chosen to account for country heterogeneity and unobserved factors influencing student outcomes, by using both PISA and PIAAC data for 20 different countries. The regression results suggest that the choice of one system or the other does not account for differences across countries in either the mean performance or the inequality of students’ test scores.

Keywords: PISA, PIAAC, Education inequality, Tracking, Specialization, Difference-in-Differences, Curriculum

JEL Classification: I21, I24, I28

Suggested Citation

Leme, Afonso and Escardibul Ferrá, Josep Oriol, The Effect of a Specialized versus a General Upper Secondary School Curriculum on Students’ Performance and Inequality. A Difference-in-Differences Cross Country Country Comparison (June 1, 2016). Document de treball de l’IEB 2016/16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2799290 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2799290

Afonso Leme

New University of Lisbon - Nova School of Business and Economics ( email )

Campus de Carcavelos
Rua da Holanda, 1
Carcavelos, 2775-405
Portugal

Josep Oriol Escardibul Ferrá (Contact Author)

University of Barcelona ( email )

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 585
Barcelona, 08007
Spain

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