Working Papers

Tracking and Sorting in the German Educational System. Literature review and analyses of the birth cohorts 1970-1980

Authors: Miriam Henninges, Claudia Traini and Corinna Kleinert

This report reviews the key modes of creating social dispersion in the German educational system by sorting students into distinct groups based on performance or choice. It describes the basic structure of the German educational system and the specific modes of sorting at the different stages of education from early childhood education and care until tertiary education, building on country-specific literature, administrative documents and official data. It places a specific focus on secondary schooling, where formal tracking is most prevalent. The report is complemented by descriptive analyses for the birth cohorts 1970-1980 in West Germany based on data from the National Educational Panel Study, Starting Cohort 6. It describes their educational pathways, the role of social origin in track placement, the long-term consequences of tracking, and its contribution to long-term social inequality. Findings based on new data covering detailed educational biographies show that the three different tracks lead to different educational and vocational trajectories; at the same time, there are manifold ways to reach similar attainment and to upgrade previous certificates. Parental resources (in terms of education or occupational class) are strongly associated with track placement. Whilestudents’ track location at different ages increases its importance inpredicting educational outcomes, occupational measures are found to be less sensitive to respondents’ track location. This is especially true forunemployment and earnings. Finally, track placement at the beginning of lower secondary education accounts from on third to half of the difference in educational and labour market attainment due to social background and subsequent track mobility further mediates social background differences.

Tracking and Sorting in the French Educational System

Authors: Estelle Herbaut, Carlo Barone, Mathieu Ichou and Louis-André Vallet

This paper provides an overview of tracking policies in secondary education in France. Drawing on two large datasets on educational trajectories and labour-market outcomes, it identifies patterns of social inequalities associated with track allocation in secondary education. It assesses the long-term consequences of track assignment and its mediating role in the association between social origin and occupational outcomes. Results confirm the large association between social origin and track allocation on the one hand, and between track attainment and higher education and labour-market outcomes at occupational maturity on the other hand. We also find that track attainment accounts for a large share of the association between social origin, measured either by parental education or by social class, and outcomes at occupational maturity. These results highlight the importance of tracking policies for social stratification in the French context.

The Structure, Causes, and Consequences of Tracking in the Danish Education System

Authors: Jesper Fels Birkelund, Kristian Bernt Karlson, David Reimer

This report provides an overview over the institutional configuration of the Danish educational system and its development over time with a focus on inequalities in educational attainment. We draw on population data from Danish administrative registers and we describe the development of educational attainment including track choices and field of study specializations for individuals born from 1960-1986. This cohort range was chosen in light of relevant institutional reforms of the Danish school system that led to changes in between- or within-school tracking. However, the bulk of our analyses that provide a detailed picture of tracking and tracking consequences, are based on the 1975 cohort. The first chapter provides a description of the basic structure of the Danish educational system and highlights some of the major educational reforms. In chapter two, we follow the historical development of educational attainment. Chapter three describes the flow of individuals (born in 1975) through the educational system. Chapter four analyses the long-term consequences associated with track choices. Finally, in chapter five some basic decomposition analyses are presented that help us to explain to what extent the association between social origin and the attainment tertiary degrees or labor market outcomes is mediated by prior track choices.

Educational tracking and sorting in England. Education system, reforms, trends and empirical evidence for the 1970 Birth Cohort Study (BCS70)

Authors: Queralt Capsada-Munsech, Vikki Boliver

This report provides an overview and brief literature review of the English education system and the relevant educational reforms in relation toeducational tracking and sorting. We employ the term ‘tracking’ whenreferring to formal educational differentiation, while ‘sorting’ refers to informal educational differentiation. The main objective is to provide a descriptive empirical analysis that identifies the long-term consequences of educational tracking and sorting on educational and occupational attainment. We also explore to what extent educational tracking/sorting characteristics mediate the relationship between social class of origin and destination. We use the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) to provide empirical evidence for a mature cohort, mainly focusing on the role of school type and attaining a degree from a prestigious university as the main forms of educational tracking and sorting.

Tracking and sorting in the Finnish educational system

Authors: Laura Heiskala and Jani Erola

This report gives a brief overview of educational tracking and sorting in the Finnish educational system. In Finland, students are divided into different tracks relatively late even though between and within-school tracking exists at all educational levels in some forms. In this report, we present descriptive empirical analyses of long-term consequences of educational tracking by social origin using full population Finnish register data. According to our analyses, parental education and parental social class are associated with track choice at upper secondary and tertiary education. Track choice at upper secondary education is also associated with several outcomes at occupational maturity, such as final educational attainment, social class, earnings and unemployment. Track choice at tertiary education partly explains these associations but the coefficients remain statistically significant in most of the cases. Furthermore, our decomposition analyses show a direct effect of social origin on outcomes at occupational maturity which is not explained by track choice at upper secondary and tertiary education.

Tracking in the Italian Education System

Authors: Marta Facchini, Carlo Barone and Moris Triventi

In this report, we provide an overview of tracking, that is the choice of the type of secondary school, in Italy. First, we describe the structure of the Italian education system and its main reforms. We detail broad and curricular tracking both between and within schools. We focus on upper secondary school, since in Italy the school tracks branch at this node. Second, we use the Italian Household Longitudinal Study (IHLS) data to illustrate both the trends in educational attainment and the educational trajectories for four birth cohorts (1927-47, 1948-57, 1958-67 and 1968- 77). Third, we report the pattern of association between tracking and social inequality for the 1958-67 birth cohort. Specifically, we show that parental education and social class of origin are strongly correlated to track placement. Moreover, the choice of upper secondary school is associated to the final educational attainment and the position in the labor market at occupational maturity. Furthermore, tracking mediates almost half of the association between social background and educational and labor market outcomes.

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