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The effect of modular education on school dropout

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Abstract

Modular education refers to the division of conventional courses into smaller components or modules. Each module enables students to obtain a partial certificate that can be combined into a qualification. This article evaluates whether modular education, which is widely used in secondary and tertiary education, has been effective in reducing school dropout. For this purpose, the study exploits a policy change in the Flemish Community of Belgium, which recently introduced modular education for some programmes. Using a difference‐in‐differences framework with diverse adoption dates per school, the results indicate that modular education may significantly reduce school dropout by 2.5 percentage points, with the largest effects on foreign origin students. Therefore, modular education is likely to be an effective policy to tackle school dropout and reduce the ethnic attainment gap. Additionally, students enrolled in modular education are more likely to be employed and to incur higher earnings on the labour market.

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... These modules are ideally independent and nonsequential, so that students can follow the modules in an order of their choice. Completion of all modules in an educational program results in regular certification of the program [2] [3]. Modularized education is thus a collection of bite-sized units of knowledge and skills, which offers students the possibility to choose their desired educational route and learning speed. ...
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... The attendance of participants is not mandatory, but if participants do not sufficiently attend the classes, they are forbidden from participating in the exam. The programs are offered through modular education in which the subject material is subdivided into smaller components to reduce school dropout (Mazrekaj and De Witte 2020). Some programs are organised during the day, while other programs are organised in evening classes. ...
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... 2 In our case, following De Witte and Van Klaveren (2012) and De Witte, Van Klaveren, and Smets (2015), we propose a two-step matching procedure that examines 2 Impact evaluation is quite common in other areas such as the evaluation of active labour market policies (for instance, see Card, Kluve, & Weber, 2018). In the context of education, we find some research evaluating the effectiveness of some particular policies aimed at reducing school dropout (Cabus & De Witte, 2015;Mazrekaj & De Witte, 2019). However, as Cabus (2017) points out, there is still too much to consider in terms of what works in the fight against school dropout. ...
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The estimation of the economic return to education has perhaps been one of the predominant areas of analysis in applied economics for over 50 years. In this short note we consider some of the recent directions taken by the literature, and also some of the blockages faced by both science and policymakers in pushing forward some key issues. This serves by way of introduction to a set of papers for a special issue of the Economics of Education Review.
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Curriculum 2000 was heralded as a long overdue reform of the post-sixteen curriculum in England. In particular, critics of the traditional A level school curriculum had long complained of the narrow focus of these qualifications. The initiative therefore sought to improve the breadth of study experienced by students, through the added inclusion of Key Skills to the curriculum and the institution of an additional tier of assessment in Year 12; this latter reform would, it was hoped, allow students to follow broader courses of study in Year 12 before specialising in Year 13. Curriculum 2000 also sought to bring together the academic and vocational tracks, through encouraging mix-and-match qualifications. In practice its first two years have been characterised by implementation problems, as examination boards, schools, teachers and students have struggled to come to terms with the new system. Recently these problems have received the full glare of publicity, contributing to a ministerial resignation, as the media has spotlighted the grading crisis of 2002. This paper examines the policy context of the reform before drawing on research findings to address a particular issue of relevance: whether Curriculum 2000 succeeds in its stated aim of increasing breadth of study.
This article investigates the costs and benefits of the increased use of modular or unitized qualification designs through a case study of the GCE A‐level science curriculum in England. Following a brief review of the development of modular A‐levels, the various proposed advantages of modularity—short‐term goals and regular feedback, flexibility in curriculum design, and improved progression possibilities—are counterpoised by arguments about the disadvantages—such as fragmentation of knowledge and more instrumental approaches to assessment and learning. The article argues that on balance the costs of the move to modularization in terms of the impact on teachers’ capacities to help young people understand science outweigh the perceived benefits of improved examination success rates. Given this balance we account for the growing popularity of modular approaches using a path dependency model and increasing returns process which combine features of the English educational landscape, in particular narrow accountability systems, to the increasing desirability of modular approaches to curriculum design for learners, teachers and educational organizations.
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Modular A‐level courses, indeed modular forms of assessment in many areas of education, have gained in popularity over the past few years. This research looked at data collected as part of the ALIS (A‐level Information System) project. In particular, the attitudes, future academic intentions and attainment of students gaining a grade in A‐level Mathematics were compared, by gender, between those who followed a modular course and those who were assessed at the end of two years of study. The two groups were found to have a similar average GCSE grade, but overall, the final A‐level grades of those assessed modularly were half a grade higher than their linearly assessed contemporaries. Possible reasons for these differences are discussed. The types of teaching style employed in modular and non‐modular A‐level courses were compared. Initial findings suggest that modularly assessed courses are relying even more on a didactic approach.
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With the growth of modular assessment at A-level and the proposed introduction of the Advanced Subsidiary level, students, teachers and those responsible for standards in examinations must assess the impact of a number of factors on performance. This study focuses on the effects of maturity and gender, and highlights their possible influence on performance at A-level. The study compares the performance of two groups of students, using data gathered from the examination scripts of lower-sixth and upper-sixth candidates in A-level physics. The candidates were assessed while at different stages in their course, using the same examination questions. Pupils completing the second year of the course had a higher level of attainment than those taking the examination during the first year of study. Similar differences between upper-sixth and lower-sixth pupils were observed in both boys and girls; however, there is some evidence which may suggest that boys are more likely than girls to take advantage of some of the features of modular examinations.
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Part 1 of this paper gives a brief introduction to modules and modular courses, and considers some of the advantages and disadvantages of modularization. Part 2 describes the introduction of the Welsh Joint Education Committee's Science (Modular Scheme) course (WJEC, 1989) which leads to the awarding of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE); this section also analyses the reaction of 92 science teachers to this course. In part 3, lessons are drawn from the data on teacher reaction and suggestions are made concerning the introduction of modular courses in the future.
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This article investigates whether increasing mandatory educational attainment through compulsory schooling legislation encourages women to delay childbearing. We use variation induced by changes in compulsory schooling laws in both the US and Norway to estimate the effect in two very different institutional environments. We find evidence that increased compulsory schooling does in fact reduce the incidence of teenage childbearing in both the US and Norway, and these estimates are quite robust to various specification checks. These results suggest that legislation aimed at improving educational outcomes may have spillover effects onto the fertility decisions of teenagers.
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We review the empirical literature that estimates the causal effect of parentÂ’s schooling on childÂ’s schooling, and conclude that estimates differ across studies. We then consider three explanations for why this is: (a) idiosyncratic differences in data sets, (b) differences in remaining biases between different identification strategies, and (c) differences across identification strategies in their ability to make out-of-sample predictions. We conclude that discrepancies in past studies can be explained by violations of identifying assumptions. Our reading of past evidence, together with an application to Swedish register data, suggests that intergenerational schooling associations are largely driven by selection. Parental schooling constitutes a large part of the parental nurture effect, but as a whole does not play a large role. (JEL I21, J13)
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This paper uses compulsory schooling laws to evaluate high school dropout decisions. The main empirical result is that lifetime wealth increases by about 15% with an extra year of compulsory schooling. Students compelled to stay in school are also less likely to report being in poor health, unemployed, and unhappy. The main conclusion is that high school aversion alone is unlikely to explain why dropouts forgo substantial gains to lifetime wealth. The results are more consistent with the possibility that adolescents ignore or heavily discount future consequences when deciding to drop out of school. If teenagers are myopic, making school compulsory or offering incentives to stay in school may help improve lifetime outcomes.
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Most papers that employ Differences-in-Differences estimation (DD) use many years of data and focus on serially correlated outcomes but ignore that the resulting standard errors are inconsistent. To illustrate the severity of this issue, we randomly generate placebo laws in state-level data on female wages from the Current Population Survey. For each law, we use OLS to compute the DD estimate of its "effect" as well as the standard error of this estimate. These conventional DD standard errors severely understate the standard deviation of the estimators: we find an "effect" significant at the 5 percent level for up to 45 percent of the placebo interventions. We use Monte Carlo simulations to investigate how well existing methods help solve this problem. Econometric corrections that place a specific parametric form on the time-series process do not perform well. Bootstrap (taking into account the autocorrelation of the data) works well when the number of states is large enough. Two corrections based on asymptotic approximation of the variance-covariance matrix work well for moderate numbers of states and one correction that collapses the time series information into a "pre"-and "post"-period and explicitly takes into account the effective sample size works well even for small numbers of states.
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Researchers using changes in compulsory schooling laws as instruments have typically estimated very high returns to additional schooling that are greater than the corresponding OLS estimates. Given that the first order source of bias in OLS is likely to be upward as more able individuals tend to obtain more education, such high estimates are usually rationalized as reflecting the fact that the group of individuals who are influenced by the law change have particularly high returns to education. That is, the Local Average Treatment Effect (LATE) is larger than the average treatment effect (ATE). However, studies of a 1947 British compulsory schooling law change that impacted about half the relevant population (so the LATE approximates the ATE) have also found very high IV returns to schooling (about 15%), suggesting that the ATE of schooling is greater than OLS estimates would suggest. This constitutes a puzzle: How can the OLS return to schooling be a significantly downward biased estimate of the ATE when the primary source of OLS bias should be upward? We utilize a source of earnings data, the New Earnings Survey Panel Data-set (NESPD), that is superior to the datasets previously used and conclude that there is no such puzzle: the IV estimates are small and much lower than OLS. In fact, there is no evidence of any return for women and the return for men is in the 4-7% range. We do, however, find that men benefit from greater schooling through a reduction in earnings variability.