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European Variations in Socioeconomic Inequalities in Students' Cognitive Achievement: The Role of Educational Policies

Abstract : In the light of past sociological research in education, we analyze socioeconomic inequalities in cognitive competences among students reaching the end of compulsory schooling, in a time and European comparative perspective. Using the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2009 data sets, we examine a broad set of institutional parameters that might play a role in the generation of social differentials in cognitive achievement. Analyzing PISA data for 22 European countries is particularly advantageous for pursuing our concerns, as they allow applying multilevel analyses (student; school; country) and assessing the interaction effects between the characteristics of the educational system on the one hand and student’s and school’s socioeconomic backgrounds on the other hand. We find descriptive evidence that institutional parameters that foster freedom in education, such as an early selection with numerous tracks of study, a great significance of public selective schools, as well as of private schools with fees, jointly amplify socioeconomic inequalities in performances between students essentially by magnifying the effect of schools’ social composition on students’ competences. We find ambiguous results concerning the effect of grade retention, which challenge past and current researches showing negative short-term effects of grade retention. Our hypotheses about the equalizing effect of national support measures, such as financial aids for disadvantaged students, are not empirically confirmed.
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Noémie Le Donné. European Variations in Socioeconomic Inequalities in Students' Cognitive Achievement: The Role of Educational Policies. European Sociological Review, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2014, 30 (3), pp.329 - 343. ⟨10.1093/esr/jcu040⟩. ⟨hal-03399355⟩

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