Summary and implications for worldwide education

J. M. Gray, W. H. A. Hofman, R. H. Hofman, P. Daly

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review


When we began our research we had two major concerns. First, to look at how the different countries of Europe schooled their children in terms of certain key dimensions - funding, governance and choice being the most prominent. And second, to explore whether what they did mattered in terms of their effects on pupil performance. Educational systems emerge over time. Their formation and maintenance reflect differing historical traditions, cultural values and religious interests as well as divergent views about the role of the state in shaping the life-chances of its future citizens. Everywhere we looked we found differences. The task we set ourselves was to find appropriate frameworks for comparison which were simultaneously true to the broad circumstances of each country whilst putting some of the nuances into context. Our strategy was to recruit a range of country 'experts', who could alert us to the salient features of each educational system, and combine their views with analyses of a cross-European data-set on pupil performance (drawing on data from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study - widely known as TIMMS). The use of such 'experts' is common in international studies of achievement but the degree of detail we achieved as a result is rare. Bringing these two sources together we painted a detailed picture of the systems in 13 European countries. Our 'experts' also gave us a greater purchase on the key structural dimensions which make up what we refer to as the 'institutional context' and underpin our analyses of performance. 'Institutional context' has come to play an important role in the explanation of differences in 'effectiveness' between schools. But what is meant by such a concept differs from system to system. At its centre are a nexus of inter-cutting relationships pertaining to the relative sizes of the public and private sectors, the financial bases on which they are founded, governance structures and the extent of school 'choice' available in different countries as well as variations in decision-making, the 'locus of control' and the influence of parents and community. Any or all of these factors have been portrayed as crucial to the functioning of particular educational systems. Given the number and complexity of some of them, we should therefore not be particularly surprised that valid comparisons of public/private effects in education are currently few and far between. As policy-makers increasingly come to compete through educational systems for economic advantage and, in the process create ambitious agendas for systemic reform, there is a further interest in determining the relative influences of such differences. Such 'improvement' agendas have been reflected in recent research. Bishop and Wössmann (2001), for example, have argued that certain "incentive creating" institutional factors can help to explain a great deal of the cross-country variation in mathematics achievement. They suggest that private schools are more likely to possess appropriate "incentive creating" characteristics and that competition from privately-managed schools is generally associated with positive effects in terms of performance. The implication is that improving institutional policies may be a good deal more effective in increasing the quality of schooling than revising resource policies. It is a policy agenda which affects school reform in developed and developing countries alike. The European case is of particular interest, however, because the range of combinations on offer is considerable.

Originele taal-2English
TitelInstitutional Context of Education Systems in Europe
SubtitelA Cross-Country Comparison on Quality and Equity
RedacteurenR. H. Hofman, W. H. A. Hofman, J. M. Gray, P. Daly
UitgeverijSpringer Netherlands
Aantal pagina's22
ISBN van elektronische versie978-1-4020-2745-1, 978-1-4020-2744-4
ISBN van geprinte versie978-90-481-6715-9
StatusPublished - 2005

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