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Equality and Quality in Education

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionPfeffer, Fabian T. 2012. "Equality and Quality in Education." PSC Research Report No. 12-774. September 2012.

We study the performance of national education systems along two important dimensions: The degree to which they help individuals develop capabilities necessary for their successful social integration (educational quality) and the degree to which they confer equal opportunities for social advancement (educational equality). To investigate how educational quality and equality relate to each other as well as to selected institutional features of national education systems and macro-economic contexts, we draw on comparative data from the International Adult Literacy Survey for 19 OECD nations and caution against the limitations of international student assessment data in speaking to these questions.

Our analyses reveal a positive relationship between educational quality and equality and show that education systems with a lower degree of institutional differentiation not only provide more educational equality but are also marked by higher levels of educational quality. While the latter association is partly driven by other institutional and macro-structural factors, we demonstrate that the higher levels of educational equality in less differentiated education systems do not entail an often-assumed trade-off for lower quality.

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