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  • It’s More Useful to Compare Students from Different Regions of a Single Country than from Different Countries

It’s More Useful to Compare Students from Different Regions of a Single Country than from Different Countries

Professor Martin Carnoy of Stanford University and visiting professor at the Higher School of Economics, and Tatiana Khavenson, Research Fellow at the HSE Institute of Education, were among the authors of the report ‘An Analysis of the Impact of Education Policies on Student Achievement in the United States’, which was recently presented in Washington, DC. The key provisions of this report are of use when it comes to analyzing the situation in Russian education.

Martin Carnoy, Academic Supervisor of the HSE International Laboratory for Education Policy Analysis, has been working with HSE since 2011. He advises postgraduate students and takes part in various comparative studies of education that offer analysis, including of the situation in Russia, on engineering education and the quality of primary and secondary education.

Despite the fact that their report, as its name implies, is dedicated to overseas practitioners, some of his conclusions are interesting for our country, said Tatiana Khavenson, the study’s co-author.

One of the features of American primary and secondary education is its considerable decentralization and differentiation. There are states with very high performance, and, on the contrary, there are states that perform very poorly. Despite the fact that the United States as a whole has received low scores in international comparative studies on the quality of education (PIRLS, TIMSS, PISA), there are regions like Massachusetts where achievements are comparable with what is found in leading countries (e.g., Korea and Finland). Both for education policy and research it is much more interesting to analyze practices within a country and to identify the causes of inequality, rather than worrying about how the United States lags in global comparative studies, confirm the report’s authors.

In Russia, the situation is similar in many ways, says Khavenson. In international studies of education quality Russia is considered as a whole and is compared with small countries such as Finland, but this approach is often useless and cannot serve as the basis for far-reaching conclusions. But the conclusions regarding the achievements of Russian schoolchildren are generally considered on a national scale, as very little regional data is generally available. Regional data that do exist, for example scores on the Unified State Exam and the Basic State Exam, are closed to the general public.

Collection and analysis of data in the field of education based on the example of American colleagues presents a new challenge for the Russian researchers in the near future.

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