University of Naples "Parthenope" (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN12 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 4399-4408
ISBN: 978-84-695-3491-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Education is one of the most important services provided by governments in almost every country and a widespread literature recognizes various education related determinants of economic growth focusing on the role played by human capital. The increasing importance of human capital as key factor to improve economic performance leads many governments to improve their national school systems in order to provide the best education to their students. In this light, our paper aims at exploring the educational differentials across a set of OECD countries as well as the dynamics which lead countries with similarities in their formal educational systems to reach different levels of outcomes. More precisely, in an international perspective, we compare Italy with some developed economies in order to investigate the main factors of educational gaps. First, a cluster analysis is performed to define the set of OECD countries comparable to Italy in terms of access and output of educational institutions, financial and human resources in education, school autonomy and accountability. Within the cluster of similar countries we select the ones with a significant positive (Australia, Canada and Ireland) or negative (Luxembourg) educational gap, in terms of test scores, with respect to Italy. Second, on the basis of data from the last edition (2009) of OECD Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA), a common educational production function is estimated to look into the determinants, both at student and school level, of educational achievement in each country. Because of the hierarchical structure of PISA data, we adopt weighted clustering robust linear regression models (WCRLR) to adjust standard errors for loss of the independence of error terms between students within the same school. Finally, two decomposition techniques (Oaxaca Blinder and Juhn Murphy Pierce approaches) allow to disentangle the differences in achievement scores between Italy and the other countries into a component related to the different endowment in resources and a component linked to the educational system’s capability of transforming background and institutional characteristics into skills. Main results highlight the significant disadvantage in terms of endowment of Italian students which is partly balanced out by the returns of Italian educational process. The study confirms the lower equity and the higher social clustering of Italian school system which make more difficult for students to move up the social ladder. Such a system tends to advantage students with higher socio economic origins instead to help pupils coming from a needy background to improve their outcomes. Therefore, a reorganization of educational investments could be required in order to readdress the available financial funds to schools which operate in poorer territorial contexts. Indeed, higher financial endowments along with a fuller economic school autonomy and a higher accounting capacity would allow schools to implement programmes more suited to the social, economic and cultural backgrounds in which they operate.
Human capital, Educational economics, Educational production, Achievement gap.