University of Naples "Parthenope" (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 422-430
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
This paper provides an analysis of Italian students’ achievement on the basis of OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 data.
In line with results by the previous editions, PISA 2009 underlines the lower performance of Italian 15-year olds in relation to their counterparts from most of the developed countries involved in the survey. Italian students reach average test scores – 483 points in mathematics, 486 in reading and 489 in science – consistently below the OECD averages and the gaps between Italian students and their peers in the best performer countries, such as Korea and Finland, are extremely high. This low achievement of Italian students, which conflicts with the high level of education expenditure per pupil, leads to analyze the determinants of their poor performance focusing on the significant relationship between literacy skills and socio-economic status.
This relationship, called socio-economic gradient, is a useful policy device because it provides a framework that emphasizes both levels of schooling outcomes and the equality of outcomes among advantaged and disadvantaged groups.
Given the hierarchical nature of data (students nested into schools, schools nested into macro-areas) we employs multilevel statistical techniques to examine the relationships among students within schools, and among schools within regions, in order to decompose and investigate the role of socio-economic context on students’ achievement. This approach enables us to study their performance, while controlling for the variance across different levels involved in the analysis.
The main findings confirm the low equity of Italian school system expressed by the strong relationship between the social background of students and their educational achievement. 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. This effect is very strong for the Southern regions characterized also by a larger between-school variation which tends to segregate students along social class lines, with students from advantaged backgrounds attending more academically oriented programs, and students from disadvantaged backgrounds attending less academically oriented programs.
These findings have important implications for educational policy, particularly concerning the differential allocation of human and material resources, the stratification of students into different types of schools and school programs, and the segregation of students from different family backgrounds. 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.
Socioeconomic gradient, OECD PISA, educational inequality, multilevel analysis.