Promoting educational equity in Chilean schools

In a country of widespread inequality, good education can help close the gap. But first, we need to decide what we mean by “good”.

The challenge

It might seem obvious: the best schools produce the best results. But equity, whether in wealth or education, hasn’t grown as rapidly as Chile’s income over the last decades. Some schools may not be getting enough credit, others may be complacent.

At present, Chilean schools are rewarded based on factors including pupils’ raw test outcomes. But this neglects a whole range of issues affecting a school’s ability to achieve the very highest results. Consequently, inequality gets reinforced as schools with the toughest challenges face punishments as severe as closure.

Research impact – Re-evaluating performance and good practice in Chilean schools

In collaboration with national and international partners, this work follows up on Bernardita Munoz Chereau’s PhD research highlighting the strong influence of prior attainment and school context – things like pupil demographics, family background and school location – on students’ test performances.

This work allows schools to be compared not just on raw performance scores, but on contextualised student progress that more accurately emphasises the value they add. Broadly, this means tracking improvements in students’ performance while adjusting for prior attainment and other key contextual factors. Having refined the weighting process, we’re now publicising the results, which present a very different picture of Chilean school performance classifications.

This is an emergent research field, so sharing and discussing these findings with local stakeholders and a wider academic audience is an important part of our strategy. This isn’t about telling other people what to do, it’s about offering a new perspective with which to make informed decisions.

How it helps

While our work challenges the standard rankings and perceptions of Chilean schools, it also provides an opportunity to spotlight proven best practice from around the education system.

By increasing local awareness of the additional considerations that they face, we’re showing that schools educating pupils from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds may be doing a better job than many realise, which helps Chile work out how best to support schooling and reduce inequality for generations to come.

Underpinning research

Bernardita Munoz Chereau’s doctoral study “Searching for fairer ways of comparing Chilean secondary schools performance: a mixed methods study investigating contextual value added approaches” was underpinned by pragmatic ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions. Her work following on from this aims to improve education primarily in Chile and potentially in other DAC listed countries in the region, by delivering new insights into the quality of Chilean schools through an equity lens provided by value added models applied to assess students’ performance. Increasing awareness that different ‘value added’ indicators for different student groups are needed to assess the quality and equity of schools, as well as providing methodological tools coupled with evidence-based descriptions of effective schools, helps to provide fairer and accurate tools for identifying good practice in the educational system. In addition, school accountability and school improvement efforts can be supported more effectively, helping to tackle the global challenge of high inequality in Chile. Some of the techniques used – quantitative methods in general and Multi-Level Modelling specifically – have enabled a better understanding of the relative importance of the contribution of Chilean schools to student outcomes, but need to be mediated for colleagues, practioners and stakeholders before results are used at the school level.

Date published

November 2017



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