Render unto primary the things which are primary's. Inherited and fresh learning divides in Italian lower secondary education
We employ a pseudo-panel approach to link achievements of the same cohort of Italian students over two waves of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). As we investigate the determinants of scores in math and science at the end of the lower secondary school (8th grade), we are able to circumvent cumulative effects of education by controlling for the estimated achievement at the 4th grade. We find that the gender gap in math observed at the 8th grade should actually be ascribed to primary education, while responsibilities on the gap in science are shared by the two school levels. On the other hand, in both subject, the largest part of the learning divide due to family background originates at the lower secondary school. Although foreign-origin students are more prone than natives to be held back, they show a remarkable recovery at the lower secondary school, once the entry-level of competence is taken into account.
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