Following the commitment to poverty reduction made by the international community in 2000 and progress made towards achieving the goal of universal primary education by 2015, attention is now shifting to school quality, levels of learning and inequalities in children’s outcomes. Rising enrolment rates have not necessarily been accompanied by improvements in quality of schooling or the level of learning outcomes.
The papers in this special issue show how children’s education experience, achievement and progression through the grades of school are shaped both by the school they attend and by their home background. To do this, they draw upon both household and school-level data from Young Lives. The Young Lives design enables analysis comparing learning between children within its two age-cohorts who have been exposed to no schooling, timely enrolment and progression, and those who experience delayed and interrupted schooling.
The body of cross-sectional evidence from comparative learning assessments in lower-income countries has increased in recent years. A growing body of literature also draws on international comparative data to explain differences in student performance and school effectiveness across countries, while a smaller body of evidence examines educational progress over time using single country and single cohort longitudinal data. But while cross-country studies of ‘learning production’ reveal some key features of effective schools, understanding of differences in productivity between different education systems remains limited, not least because of the complex inter-relationships between ‘inputs’ and with children’s backgrounds and the policy context.
Linking school and household surveys is both informative and challenging. As these papers demonstrate, at a time when the focus of much international education research and intervention is shifting to school quality, it is important to retain a focus on the learning effects of school attendance per se, especially in those countries where enrolment in the basic cycle of education is not universal and where age-cohorts of children often attend school across a range of grades schools of diverse types.
Little, A.W.; Rolleston, C. (Editors) Special issue: School quality counts: evidence from developing countries. Oxford Review of Education (2014) 40 (1) 1-150.