MZES Public Lecture: “Ability Grouping in English and Swedish Comprehensive Schools”

Jan O. Jonsson (University of Oxford)

A 5,6 room A 231

The MZES regularly hosts academic talks in which political scientists, sociologists, psychologists and economists present their ongoing work.

Title: Ability Grouping in English and Swedish Comprehensive Schools: No Efficiency Gain, no Inequality Loss

Abstract: Comprehensive school systems typically use ability or attainment grouping (e.g., ‘setting’, ‘streaming’), building on the hypothesis that learning is facilitated in ability-homogenous groups. Such stratification within a system made for mixed ability classes has been criticized for increasing inequality between pupils. Lack of suitable data and methodological difficulties have made it difficult to test these assumptions. We contribute with a comparative study between England (with institutionalized ability grouping) and Sweden (with occasional use). We use CILS4EU data to study the effect of (a) homogeneity in ability in instructional groups on grades and academic transition to upper secondary education; (b) the effect of ability grouping within subjects on grades in these subjects. School fixed effects, Inverse of Probability of Treatment Weighting models, and placebo analyses show little evidence of efficiency gain in homogeneous instruction groups or ability grouping. We also find little or no evidence that such grouping leads to inequality; nor do we find any significant differences between England and Sweden.

Everyone interested in these talks is welcome. After the talk, the floor will be open for discussion; the event will end with a small reception.

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