Pupil awareness of the costs and benefits of university

A Centre for the Economics of Education Discussion Paper looks at what impact an information campaign and media reporting on university tuition fees had on pupils’ understanding of the costs and benefits of university.

Participating Year 10 pupils completed a survey about the cost and benefits of higher education, followed by a similar survey eight to 12 weeks later. In between the two surveys treatment schools were given information packages about the costs and benefits of staying in education. Control schools were given this after the second survey. At the time of the study the increase in tuition fees was announced, so the researchers also measured the impact of media reporting on both groups.

Their analysis showed that pupils had significant gaps in their basic knowledge of the costs and benefits of going to university, which was influenced by both the information campaign and media reporting. The change to fees, and specifically media reporting of it, increased the perception of going to university as “too expensive” – especially among lower income groups. However, it also showed that a relatively inexpensive and properly directed information campaign can help to mitigate this effect.

Source: Student awareness of costs and benefits of educational decisions: Effects of an information campaign (2012), Centre for the Economics of Education

Do scholarships to private primary schools increase college enrolment?

This randomised study examines the post-secondary education (college) enrolment of pupils in New York who participated in a voucher experiment at elementary (primary) school. In the spring of 1997, the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program offered scholarships to low-income families to support their elementary-age children to attend private schools.

For the current study, researchers from the Brown Center on Eduation Policy at the Brookings Institute and Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance obtained pupil information that allowed them to identify over 99 per cent of the pupils who participated in the original experiment and follow up on their college enrolment. Findings showed no overall impacts of the scholarships on college enrolment, but did find large, statistically significant positive impacts on the enrolment rate of African-American pupils in the study. Specifically, the researchers report significant increases in full-time college attendance, enrolment in private four-year colleges, and enrolment in selective four-year colleges for this group of pupils.

Source: The effects of school vouchers on college enrollment: Experimental evidence from New York City (2012), Brookings

Poor pupils more than two years behind in reading

New research published in a special issue of Fiscal Studies shows that the link between family background and high achievement is stronger in England than in most other developed countries.

The study uses data from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and analyses the reading test scores of 15-year-old pupils in 23 countries.

The results show that high-achieving pupils from the lowest socio-economic groups in England are, on average, two-and-a-half years behind their wealthier peers. This is more than twice the gap found in in some other developed countries. Only the US, New Zealand, and Scotland have a bigger socio-economic gap than England in the reading test scores of high-achieving pupils.

The Government is attempting to improve the performance of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing £10 million for projects to help those who fail to reach the expected level of English by the end of primary school (level 4 at Key Stage 2).The announcement comes as a response to last year’s Key Stage 2 results, which showed around 100,000 pupils in England failed to reach level 4 in English by the end of primary school.

Source: The socio-economic gradient in teenagers’ reading skills: How does England compare with other countries? (2012), Fiscal Studies, 33(2).

How does the social attainment gap in England compare with other countries?

Using findings from an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) study on the impact of socio-economic background on pupil performance this report from the Department for Education summarises how the social attainment gap in England compares with other countries.

It looks at:

  • How the OECD measure pupils’ socio-economic backgrounds in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment);
  • The distribution of pupil attainment in England and how this compares with countries internationally;
  • The association between pupils’ socio-economic backgrounds and attainment in England and how this compares with countries internationally;
  • How social gaps reported in PISA compare to the gap reported between pupils known to be eligible for free school meals and their peers in England; and
  • How average attainment reported by PISA is affected when we control for pupil background.

One of the findings of the report is that England is not the only country in which socio-economic status has a high impact on attainment. This is also true for some high-performing PISA participants, in particular, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and Belgium.

Source: PISA 2009: how does the social attainment gap in England compare with countries internationally? (2012), Department for Education

Entrepreneurship education in European schools

Europe faces a number of challenges that can only be met if it has innovative, well-educated, and entrepreneurial citizens, according to the Eurydice Network, which surveyed entrepreneurship studies in primary and secondary education in 31 European countries. Their analysis is divided into four areas:

  • National strategies and action plans to encourage the integration of entrepreneurship education;
  • How entrepreneurship education is currently being addressed;
  • Specific learning outcomes defined for entrepreneurship education and practical guidelines to support teachers; and
  • Initiatives to promote entrepreneurship education and current educational reforms on the subject.

The results of the survey show that two-thirds of European countries incorporate entrepreneurship education into the curriculum at primary education level, but that this changes significantly in secondary education, where virtually all countries integrate it into the curriculum in some form.

Source: Entrepreneurship education at school in Europe: National strategies, curricula and learning outcomes (2012), Eurydice