The Meso-Social Benefits of Vocational Education and Training for Social Groups and Communities

Report for CEDEFOP

This report for CEDEFOP considers the meso-social benefits for social groups and communities. This is a subject of considerable interest both academically in terms of the contribution of Vocational Education and Training at the community level, and in policy terms, as agendas in European countries are orientated towards community cohesion and active, participatory citizenship.

This report can be contextualised in terms of a long history of VET as being implicated in mitigating against the disruption of community due to changes in economy and society. Indeed, the focus on community, social groups and VET has been long standing, arising from major shifts in the nature of the global economy in the 21st century from an industrial to a knowledge based economy.

We consider that VET has two benefits for groups at the meso-level being social capital formation and psycho-social benefits (group identity and quality of life). We also consider that the benefits of VET might accrue differently to different social groups on the basis of characteristics such as income, gender, household type and citizenship.

We would expect people who engage in VET to benefit differentially according to their membership of different social groups. In this report we look at the differential benefits for social groups and communities. For quantitative purposes the five social groups identified are: income groups, gender, household type, citizenship (nationals, EU nationals, and nonnational), and birth place groups.

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Endogeneity Problems in Multilevel Estimation of Education Production Functions: an Analysis Using PISA Data

With Said Hanchane.

LLAKES Research Paper N° 14.

This paper explores endogeneity problems in multilevel estimation of education production functions. The focus is on level 2 endogeneity which arises from correlations between student characteristics and omitted school variables.We first develop a theoretical model in order to show that school and peer characteristics are the by-product of student background. This theoretical framework helps the identification of the hypotheses we would like to test within the empirical part. From an econometric point of view, the correlations between student and school characteristics imply that the omission of some variables may generate endogeneity bias. Therefore, in the second section of the paper, an estimation approach based on the Mundlak (1978) technique is developed in order to tackle bias and to generate consistent estimates.The entire analysis is undertaken in a comparative context between three countries: Germany, Finland and the UK. Each one of them represents a particular system. For instance, Finland is known for its extreme comprehensiveness, Germany for early selection and the UK for its liberalism. These countries are used to illustrate the theory and to prove that the level of bias arising from omitted variables varies according to the characteristics of education systems.

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The Chimera of Competitiveness: Varieties of Capitalism and the Economic Crisis.

With Andy Green and John Preston.

LLAKES Research Paper N° 8.

In this paper we assess the different definitions and theories of economic competitiveness at the firm and national levels. First we contrast the theories of classical liberal economists with those of the German historical school of national economics, noting the importance of the historical school for theories of national economic competitiveness. Drawing on the comparative political economy literature on ‘varieties of capitalism’, we then discuss the factors underlying competitiveness in social market economies, social democratic economies, and liberal economies.These models of capitalism are compared under six headings: labour markets and labour market institutions; financial markets; corporate funding and governance; inter-firm relations; the role of the state; and economic culture and history. In the penultimate section of the paper we discuss how the different models of capitalism have responded to the economic crisis and the impact of the crisis on their economic competitiveness. The paper concludes with a summary of the key points to emerge from the analysis and looks to how the scene may evolve as national economies begin to adapt.

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The Anatomy of Inequalities in Educational Achievements: An International Investigation of the Effects of Stratification

LLAKES Research Paper N° 3

This paper analyses the mechanisms of stratification and inequalities in achievements. The main objective is to determine how stratification leads to unequal educational outcomes and how inequalities are channelled through student characteristics, school characteristics and peer effects.

On the one hand, a descriptive analysis is used to shed light on the education systems of the five selected countries and to provide insight into the functioning of stratification. The countries are Japan, the UK, Italy, Germany and Finland, and the dataset used is PISA 2003. On the other hand, a multilevel econometric model is elaborated in order to quantify the effects of student, school and peer characteristics on performance scores. The results on the regressions are then interpreted according to the institutional context of each country. In the last section, policy implications, based on the regression results, are derived.

JEL Classification: I20, I21, H52.

Keywords: Educational stratification, achievement inequalities, comparative analysis of education systems, multilevel modelling.

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Educational Quality, Communities, and Public School Choice: a Theoretical Analysis

In this paper, we develop a multicommunity model where public mixed finance and private schools coexist. Students are differentiated by income, ability and social capital. Schools maximize their profits under a quality constraint; the pricing function is dependent on the cost of producing education and on the position of an individual relatively to mean ability and mean social capital. Income plays an indirect role since it determines the type of schools and communities that can be afforded by a student given his ability and social capital.

Three dimensional stratification results from schools’ profit maximization and individuals’ utility maximization. We study majority voting over tax rates; property tax is used to finance education not only in pure public schools but also in mixed finance schools. We provide the necessary conditions for the existence of a majority voting equilibrium determined by the median voter. Finally, we analyze the consequences of introducing public school choice.

JEL Classification: I20, H52, R31.

Keywords: Education market, majority voting equilibrium, peer group effects, formation of communities, school choice.

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School Choice: Income, Peer Effect and the Formation of Inequalities.

Abstract: In this paper, we analyze the equilibrium on the market for schooling where both public and private schools coexist and where individuals are differentiated by income and ability. We introduce a non linear in means model of peer effect by shedding the light on the fact that school quality is not solely dependent on mean ability but also on the dispersion of abilities. We study the distribution of students across sectors while examining the conditions for the existence of a majority voting equilibrium in the context of non single peaked preferences. Finally, we examine the presence of a hierarchy of school qualities. In the paper we shed the light on equity problems related to the access to educational quality while analyzing the functioning of the educational system.

JEL Classification: I20, I21, H52.

Keywords: Education market, majority voting equilibrium, peer group effect, pricing discrimination, educational opportunity.

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What makes for a satisfied science teacher?

What makes for a satisfied science teacher?

Teachers play a vital role in the lives of their students. They impart knowledge, provide pastoral care, act as role models and, above all, create an environment that’s conducive to learning. But teaching is fraught with numerous challenges that could lead to dissatisfaction and ultimately to drop-out from the profession. Science teachers are particularly vulnerable to quitting their jobs given the opportunities that exist outside the teaching profession.

So what makes a science teacher satisfied enough that he or she would want to keep teaching, despite the challenges they might face?

Data from PISA’s 2015 teacher questionnaire provide interesting evidence.

Science teachers who reported that pursuing a career in the teaching profession was their goal after finishing secondary school are far more satisfied with their jobs and with the profession as a whole. These teachers represent about 58% of all teachers on average across all countries. The relationship between these long-held ambitions and teacher satisfaction is strong across most countries and economies, and particularly in Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Guangdong (China), Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Peru and the United Arab Emirates.

But a lack of school educational and physical resources, and behavioural problems among students in school could undermine teachers’ satisfaction. For instance, teachers who perceive that the lack of teaching staff hinders instruction tend to be less satisfied with their profession and with their current job. The difference in satisfaction between the teachers who reported that these shortfalls hinder instruction to a great extent and those who reported little or no impact are the largest in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Macao (China) and the United Arab Emirates. The findings also show that in 10 out of 18 countries and economies, teachers’ satisfaction with their current job is positively associated with the disciplinary climate in science classes, as perceived by students. The associations are particularly strong in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Peru and the United States.

The presence of a collaborative and collegial working environment could boost teacher satisfaction. In fact, teachers who reported frequent collaboration among their colleagues tend to be more satisfied with their job and with the profession as a whole. Collaborative activities are more common in Australia, Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Guangdong (China), Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Macao (China), Peru, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates, and less common in Brazil, Chile, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and the United States.

PISA 2015 also shows that science teachers who engaged in more than three types of professional-development activities during the preceding 12 months tend to be more satisfied with the teaching profession and with their current job. On average and across all countries, 52% of teachers undertook more than three different types of professional-development activities during the last 12 months. The proportions are particularly large in Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Guangdong China (82%), Brazil (65%), the Dominican Republic (76%), Peru (65%) and the United Arab Emirates (65%).

Last but not least, some factors usually associated with challenging learning environments, such as the presence of large proportions of immigrant students or of students who do not speak the language of the host country, are not linked to teachers’ dissatisfaction with their job or the profession. This finding is particularly interesting because it shows that teachers do not necessarily mind teaching in schools with more demanding student populations as long as the environment is conducive to learning, the school climate is positive, and adequate resources are available.

To sum up, teacher satisfaction is positively associated with factors known to improve students’ performance, such as collegial and positive school environments. In other words, teachers’ satisfaction is both an aspect and a consequence of the school environment. As such, one has to improve the learning experience for all students in order to boost teachers’ professional satisfaction.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
PISA in Focus No. 81 – What do science teachers find most satisfying about their work?
Working Paper No. 168 – Science teachers’ satisfaction: Evidence from the PISA 2015 teacher survey

Follow the conversation on Twitter: #OECDPISA

Image source: @Shutterstock

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2015 National Report for England

I co-authored the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2015 national report for England with colleagues at the UCL Institute of Education (Toby Greany, Iain Barnes, Nicola Pensiero and Christina Swenson).

The full report can be accessed through the following link

In what follows is a summary authored by Toby Greany for the UCL IOE blog


The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMSS) now provides 20 years-worth of internationally comparable data on the mathematics and science performance of primary and secondary pupils worldwide, and the contexts in which they learn. England has participated in the study, which is now in its sixth four-yearly cycle, since its inception in 1995.  The 2015 national report, which I and a team from the UCL Institute of Education authored for the Department of Education, can be found here: TIMSS 2015.

Over 8,800 pupils across 290 schools participated in England’s TIMSS assessments last spring. The year 5 and year 9 pupils that sat the assessments have experienced quite substantial curriculum and qualifications reforms during their time in school: the year 5 pupils sat new Key Stage 2 assessments this summer, while the year 9 pupils will sit the new GCSE English and maths assessments next summer.

England’s pupils performed relatively badly in maths in 1995, coming below the international mean in both years 5 and 9. This prompted Michael Barber to argue for the introduction of a National Numeracy Strategy for primary schools a few years later.  Since then, performance in maths has improved significantly in both year groups, but particularly in year 5, where it is now significantly above the international mean.  2015 saw further small increases – compared to 2011 – in maths in both years 5 and 9, although neither increase was significant.

Performance in science was much better in 1995, and has remained significantly above the international mean in both year groups ever since. The worrying drop in year 5 science results in 2011 – which some attributed to the removal of universal science SATs for primary schools – appears to have been reversed between 2011 and 2015, with a significant improvement over the 20 year period. Performance in year 9 science has remained steady over the 20 years, with a small but not significant increase since 2011.

This picture of incremental improvement in maths, more volatile performance in year 5 science, and minimal change in year 9 science, leaves England firmly in the second highest-performing group of countries internationally in 2015. Meanwhile, the profile of countries above and below England has changed considerably over the two decades.  While the five East Asian countries (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan) have generally occupied the highest performing group of countries in recent rounds of TIMSS, Singapore performed at a similar level to England in year 5 science in 1995, while Hong Kong performed significantly lower. Several countries (such as Kazakhstan, Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic) have seen significant improvements in one or more subject in recent rounds, sometimes placing them in the highest performing group overall.  Others (such as Australia, Canada and the Netherlands) that performed above or at the same level as England in 1995 have now dropped below us.

In many respects, England’s schools compare favourably with their international comparators. For example, according to their head teachers and/or teachers, schools here have fewer challenges with a lack of resources, with poor conditions, and with pupil behaviour than schools in most other countries, although there are other areas, such as teacher recruitment, staff challenges and job satisfaction for teachers, where they perform notably less well.  England’s schools score highly for their focus on academic performance, and this appears to be a particularly important factor in student attainment.

Digging below the headline results, some further key findings for England in 2015 that are explored in more depth in the report include:

  • boys are significantly ahead of girls again in year 5 maths (having previously narrowed this gap);
  • whilst there has been an increase over the last 20 years in our pupils’ maths performance at both years 5 and 9, pupils here make relatively little progress in maths between years 5 and 9;
  • the performance of our lowest achievers in England has improved in recent years, however far higher proportions of pupils in the highest performing countries achieve the Advanced and High benchmark scores than in England;
  • England has wider gaps between our more and less advantaged pupils (determined according to the number of books pupils report having at home) than most other high performing countries;
  • three curriculum areas where England performs poorly compared to our overall results are Chemistry and Algebra in year 9, and Geometric Shapes and Measures in year 5;
  • pupil confidence in a subject appears to matter more to pupil performance than engaging teaching or whether or not pupils value it, so it is encouraging that pupils in England are relatively confident in their maths and science education; and
  • English as an Additional Language appears to be a barrier in science, but not in maths.

So England has improved its performance in TIMSS over the past 20 years, if not perhaps by as much as we might have hoped given the relentless pace and scale of the reforms we have seen in that period.

Both TIMSS and PISA (which will be published on 6th December) provide important sources for understanding trends in own national performance as well as starting points for exploring how and why different countries improve or decline on these international assessments.  TIMSS itself is not designed to answer such questions, but it does offer some tantalising clues that warrant further investigation.  For example, the East Asian group of countries performs phenomenally well in the assessments, but these countries often score less well in other areas; for example, with fewer pupils valuing or liking learning maths and science than in many other parts of the world, and with high levels of challenge for teachers and low levels of teacher job satisfaction.  It is also important to note the high levels of home tutoring in these countries, often involving more than 50% of pupils.  As ever with international comparisons the importance of cultural and contextual differences cannot be ignored here but, as England adopts ever more of its curriculum content and maths pedagogy from East Asia, it will be important to understand how these wider factors interact to secure high performance.

In a time of global uncertainty and complex social and economic challenges, education becomes more important than ever: the need for social justice, international understanding and engaged democracies has never been greater and education can contribute in all three areas. International studies such as TIMSS can support informed debate and thereby help build high quality education systems around the world, but in order for this to happen we must go beyond simplistic policy borrowing to enable genuine opportunities for system learning.

The Centre for Longitudinal Studies Missing Data Strategy

To impute or not to impute? A practical guide for handling missing data in longitudinal surveys. George Ploubidis.

Maximising the plausibility of the Missing At Random Assumption: Results from the 1958 British birth cohort. Tarek Mostafa.

How well do methods that assume data are Missing At Random perform when the missing data generating mechanism is not ignorable?  Evidence from the 1958 British birth cohort. Brian Dodgeon.

Variation within households in consent to link survey data to administrative records: Evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study

photo_consentTarek Mostafa

This article was first published in the NCRM newsletter.

Longitudinal surveys face significant challenges due to the rise in survey costs, attrition over time, and non-coverage of the target population. A promising solution to some of these problems is survey and administrative data linkage. Administrative data linkage leads to shorter interviews, less respondent burden and an overall reduction in costs (1) in addition to the gain of valuable information on respondents. However, access to administrative data is restricted by consent. Non-consent occurs when respondents refuse permission to link their administrative records to their survey data. It results in smaller samples and possibly in sample bias if the likelihood of consent is related to the characteristics of respondents.

This study aims to advance our knowledge about consent by analysing adult respondents’ behaviour when consenting to link their own administrative records in contrast to their behaviour when consenting to link someone else’s records (i.e. the cohort member in the Millennium Cohort Study). These variations in consent behaviour have not been explored in the past. All previous studies focused on respondents consenting to link their own records but not those of other members of their household (2, 3). The paper uses data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) and focuses on consent to link the cohort member’s health and educational records and the main respondent’s health and economic records (all consents are sought in wave 4 of MCS). The study attempts to answer the following research questions:

Do respondents behave differently when consenting to link their own administrative records in comparison to consenting to link those of their children?

Does respondents’ consent behaviour vary according to the domain of consent, e.g. health, economic, education records?

What is the impact of interviewers on consent outcomes and can interviewer effects be separated from the impact of an interviewer’s geographical assignment?

In summary, the findings show that main respondents behave differently when consenting to link their own records and when consenting on behalf of the cohort members. For instance, parents of children with high cognitive skills are more likely to consent on linking their children’s educational records. In contrast, the child’s cognitive skills do not affect the parents’ likelihood to link their own health and economic records. Moreover, being a private person has a more significant effect on the MRs outcomes than those of the CM. When it comes to loyalty to the survey, respondents who have missed a wave in the past are found to be less likely to consent irrespective of the outcome. In contrast, partial evidence was found in support of the impact of past relationship with the agency holding the administrative data. Among the sociodemographic characteristics of respondents, ethnicity was found to have the strongest impact irrespective of the outcome. Nonwhite respondents are less likely to consent. The cross-equation correlations measured through the multivariate probit models showed that the highest level of association is between outcomes sought for the same respondent (i.e. MRs consenting for linking their own records vs. MRs consenting for linking the CMs records).When interviewers’ effects were included through the use of fixed effects models, the explanatory power of the models increased by 3 to 4 times. This indicates that the interviewers’ characteristics and behaviour have a large effect on consent.

In terms of fieldwork practices, the findings suggest that it is possible to identify the respondents who are less likely to consent (ethnic minorities, respondents with higher privacy concerns, and respondents who have dropped out from the survey in the past). Interviewers have a strong impact on consent, therefore in the case of low consent rates, the matching of interviewers and respondents and the allocation of interviewers, with more survey experience, to difficult cases might improve consent rates. The findings also indicate that the linked administrative data is likely to suffer from sample composition bias due to non-consent. This is of a particular interest for the MCS data users. For instance the linked MCS and educational records are likely to lose children with lower cognitive skills. Similarly the high and significant impact of ethnicity means that samples are likely to lose non-white minorities. Since ethnicity is highly correlated with educational, health and economic outcomes, the data contained in the linked administrative records will be affected by non-consent. However, the total level of bias depends on non-consent and on the extent of non-linkage (the failure to link data even if consent was given) which might alleviate or exacerbate the initial non-consent bias.

A full paper on this topic was published in the International Journal of Social Research Methodology: Mostafa, T. (2015). Variation within Households in Consent to Link Survey Data to Administrative Records: Evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. 579.2015.1019264


1 Sakshaug, J., Couper, M., Ofstedal, M., & Weir, D. (2012). Linking survey and administrative records: Mechanisms of consent. Sociological Methods and Research, 41, 535–569

2 Korbmacher, J., & Schroeder, M. (2013). Consent when linking survey data with administrative records: The role of the interviewer. Survey Research Methods, 7, 115–131

3 Sala, E., Burton, J., & Knies, G. (2012). Correlates of obtaining informed consent to data linkage: Respondent, interview, and interviewer characteristics. Sociological Methods and Research, 41, 414–439