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Comprehensive Analysis of the Impact Exerted by Various Groups of Factors on USE Results and the Socio-Economic and Pedagogical Effects of the introduction of the USE

Department: Centre for Financial and Economic Decisions in Education

In Russia, the relationship between context characteristics of students, their families, educational process and school resources with students’ academic achievements, in particular represented by Unified State Examination (USE) results, has not yet been thoroughly studied. In addition to the scientific significance, this kind of study has a practical importance: for example it can be used to determine the most efficient areas of employing educational resources. However the data collected during the examination is not sufficient to explain the difference in results. Similarly, surveys, carried out as part of international studies of education quality (PISA, PIRLS) also fail to offset this deficit due to the insufficient technical and substantive comparability of these measurements with the USE. Therefore on the national scale Russia has no systemic, representative and reliable data for the Education Ministry and other national agencies and organizations that can be used in making decisions in the area of managing education quality. 

The research consisted of several areas of study.

Area 1. We examined applicants’ behavior and the choice of higher education institutions.

As part of the research, we focused on two key tasks:

  • Studying the degree of transparency of higher education institutions in respect to applicants and their readiness to support an informed choice of the applicants;
  • Studying the scale and factors of student expulsion in SU-HSE and other Russian universities.

During the first sub-task in the summer of 2010, we monitored the transparency of Russian university web-sites for students, concentrating on bachelor- and specialist-level programs for freshmen students (full-time education). For the purposes of monitoring, we determined parameters (availability / absence of the necessary information on the web-site) and assigned to each of them a weighting, depending on the utility of this information for the applicants’ decision. The scores for each higher education institution were then added up.

Monitoring included all the Russian state universities that admit students predominantly based on USE results (excluding creative and military higher education institutions as well as municipal higher education establishments and branches). The total number of universities covered was 504. We made two samples reflecting the completeness of the information posted by universities for applicants prior to the admission, during the admission and after the ratings lists of applicants are published. For each sample, we composed a universities rating table in terms of transparency for applicants.

The research showed that higher education establishments generally comply with the requirements of the Education and Science Ministry regarding publication of mandatory information. The information provided by almost all universities includes the list of majors/specialties that can be selected by applicants, enrollment rules for this particular institution and the list of required entrance USE. The information about tuition fees is not always disclosed. One fifth of universities do not post information about accomodation arrangements for boarding applicants; the least transparency is seen on enrollment statistics for previous years.

As part of the second subtask, we analyzed expulsions among SU-HSE students, identified the peaks of student expulsions and searched for those factors that affect the probability of a student’s expulsion from HSE as a result of academic failure, determined the “problem” disciplines, and compared the scale of student expulsion in SU-HSE and other Russian universities.

To examine the peak of expulsion for poor academic performance and factors influencing this, we used event analysis that takes into account censored data and time characteristics. The study showed the higher risk of expulsion for students enrolled on a contractual basis as well as through target enrollment or on federal benefits. The largest number of students are expelled in their first two years of training. Each additional point on the USE math section reduces the risk of a student being expelled by 3%, and an additional point in a foreign language - by 1%.

Area 2. We analyzed the factors that explain the USE results.

The purpose of the study is to evaluate the relationship between the following groups of factors with the USE results:

  • Socio-economic characteristics of student’s family,
  • Student’s academic practices,
  • Educational practices in school,
  • Demographic and professional characteristics of teachers and school administration,
  • School resources.

These factor groups were selected due to the perception of educational process as an interaction between the main actors – students, teachers, parents – that takes place within school as well as outside its campus.

The tasks of the 2010 research were to:

  • Develop a set of tools that can be applied to subsequent studies, including questionnaires for school administration, teachers, 11th grade students;
  • Compose a database of the 2010 USE results and the context characteristics of students, their families, teachers and schools;
  • Carry out primary analysis of the data obtained.

The opinion poll was conducted among graduates of the 11th grade of state and municipal secondary education institutions before the first USE round. We focused on exam results for the “core subjects” (Mathematics, Russian language). The opinion poll involved four Russian regions.

The results of the research demonstrated a wide range of problems outside the purpose and tasks of this research. One of the problems of modern society is the diminishing social capital of educational agents, collective disposition to education and the shift of focus from social cohesion to displays of individualism. We noted the impact of this trend of the processes of USE preparation.