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Do Differences in School's Instruction Time Explain International Achievement Gaps in Maths, Science and Language? Evidence from Developed and Developing Countries

  • Victor Lavy

There are large differences across countries in instructional time in schooling institutions. Can these differences explain some of the differences across countries in pupils' achievements in different subjects? What is the likely impact of changes in instructional time? While research in recent years provides convincing evidence about the effect of several inputs in the education production function, there is limited evidence on the effect of classroom instructional time. Such evidence is of policy relevance in many countries, and it became very concrete recently as President Barrack Obama announced the goal of extending the school week and year as a central objective in his proposed education reform for the US. In this paper, I estimate the effects of instructional time on students' academic achievement in math, science and language. I estimate linear and non-linear instructional time effects controlling for unobserved heterogeneity of both pupils and schools. The evidence from a sample of 15 year olds from over fifty countries that participated in PISA 2006 consistently shows that instructional time has a positive and significant effect on test scores. The effect is large relative to the standard deviation of the within pupil test score distribution. The OLS results are highly biased upward but the within student estimates are very similar across groups of developed and middle-income countries. However, the estimated effect of instructional time in the sample of developing countries is much lower than the effect size in the developed countries. Several checks for threats of identification support the causal interpretation of this evidence. I obtain very similar results when I use as an alternative data from primary and middle schools in Israel and a somewhat different identification strategy. Finally, I also explore some correlations that suggest that suggest that the productivity of instructional time is higher in countries that implemented s

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File URL: http://cee.lse.ac.uk/ceedps/ceedp118.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE in its series CEE Discussion Papers with number 0118.

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Date of creation: Oct 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cep:ceedps:0118
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cee.lse.ac.uk/publications.htm

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  1. Stephen Machin & Sandra McNally, 2004. "The Literacy Hour," CEE Discussion Papers 0043, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  2. Lisa Barrow & Lisa Markman & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 2009. "Technology's Edge: The Educational Benefits of Computer-Aided Instruction," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 52-74, February.
  3. Lavy, Victor & Schlosser, Analia, 2004. "Targeted Remedial Education for Underperforming Teenagers: Costs and Benefits," CEPR Discussion Papers 4381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Thomas J. Kane & Jonah E. Rockoff & Douglas O. Staiger, 2006. "What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City," NBER Working Papers 12155, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Goodman, Joshua Samuel, 2012. "The Labor of Division: Returns to Compulsory Math Coursework," Scholarly Articles 9403178, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  6. Eide, Eric & Showalter, Mark H., 1998. "The effect of school quality on student performance: A quantile regression approach," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 345-350, March.
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