The Role of Schooling in Perpetuating Educational Inequality: An International Perspective

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Educational Researcher
September 30, 2015

William H. Schmidt, Michigan State University
Nathan A. Burroughs, Michigan State University
Pablo Zoido, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Richard T. Houang, Michigan State University


In this paper, student-level indicators of opportunity to learn (OTL) included in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment are used to explore the joint relationship of OTL and socioeconomic status (SES) to student mathematics literacy. Using multiple methods, we find consistent evidence that (a) OTL has a significant relationship to student outcomes, (b) a positive relationship exists between SES and OTL, and (c) roughly a third of the SES relationship to literacy is due to its association with OTL. These relationships hold across most countries and both within and between schools within countries. Our findings suggest that in most countries, the organization and policies defining content exposure may exacerbate educational inequalities.

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