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Internationally comparable mathematics scores for fourteen african countries

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  • Sandefur, Justin

Abstract

Internationally comparable test scores play a central role in both research and policy debates on education. However, the main international testing regimes, such as PISA, TIMSS, or PIRLS, include almost no low-income countries. Instead, many developing countries opt for regional assessments sponsored by the United Nations. This paper exploits an overlap between the regional test for Southern and Eastern Africa, SACMEQ, and the TIMSS test – in both country coverage, and questions asked – to assesses the feasibility of constructing global learning metrics by equating regional and international scales. I find considerable variance when comparing three commonly-used equating methods, suggesting precise country rankings are unreliable. Across all methodologies, however, learning levels in this sample of African countries are consistently (a) low in absolute terms, by roughly one-and-a-half standard deviations or more compared to OECD pupils of a similar age; (b) significantly lower than predicted by African per capita GDP levels; and (c) converging slowly, if at all, to the rest of the world during the 2000s. The robustness of these simple facts suggests even crude linking methods may suffice for many international policy questions, such as tracking the UN’s development goals.

Suggested Citation

  • Sandefur, Justin, 2018. "Internationally comparable mathematics scores for fourteen african countries," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 267-286.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:62:y:2018:i:c:p:267-286
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2017.12.003
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Paul Anand & Jere R. Behrman & Hai-Anh H. Dang & Sam Jones, 2018. "Inequality of opportunity in education: Accounting for the contributions of Sibs, schools and sorting across East Africa," Working Papers 480, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Learning assessments; Education quality; Human capital; Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa

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