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Assessing the Quality of Education in Bulgaria using PISA 2009

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Assessing the Quality of Education in Bulgaria using PISA 2009
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   ASSESSING  T HE QU ALI T  Y OF  EDUC A T IONIN BULG ARI AUSING PIS A 2 0 09  E u r o p e  a n d  C e n t r a l  A s i a  R e g i o n H u m a n  D e v e l o p m e n t  D e p a r t m e n t D e c e m b e r,  2 0 1 0  1 Assessing the Quality of Education in Bulgaria using PISA 2009 Executive SummaryThis report is an update of the latest World Bankreport on education reforms in Bulgaria “AReview of the Bulgaria School Autonomy Reform” 1  . It reflects and analyzes the recently releasedsurvey results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted in 2009 bythe Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report examines thechange in scores from 2006 to 2009 and looks at how much of the change can be attributed toimprovements in the quality of the education system, how the poor, linguistic minorities and studentsat small schools fared over this period; as well as the relationship between various types of schoolautonomy and achievement. The analysis reveals that: (1) There were large increases in math and reading scores equivalent to one-half and one year of learning gains over time, and a modest improvement in the science scores;(2) All of the increase is attributed to improvements in the quality of the education system;(3) The poorest 20 percent of students improved just as much as the overall population. In reading, which is the main focus of PISA 2009, Bulgaria ranks among the top 10 improversworldwide. Bulgaria’s mean score rose by 27 points over the 2006 level, reaching 429 points.Bulgaria ranks 7 th in terms of improvement, with only two regional peers – Serbia and Romania –showing higher gains in reading (41 and 28 points). While EU countries on average made noprogress since 2006, Bulgaria improved its score significantly in both math and reading. Only Italyand Portugal had a larger increase in math and no EU10 country improved as much as Bulgaria did.However, in absolute terms PISA 2009 reading score ranks Bulgaria 46 th among the 74 participatingcountries .   Based on PISA 2009 data,   it is difficult to attribute the increase witnessed in 2009 to thereforms of 2007 and 2008. Nevertheless, as a barometer of how the system is faring a few yearsafter the introduction of the sweeping reforms, the latest data provides a national benchmark withwhich to measure system-wide educational progress. So far, the reforms are progressing well.Analyses of future rounds of PISA will be helpful. Little evidence exists in PISA 2009 on the link between school autonomy or parent’s involvement and achievement. Given that the reformsoccurred in 2007 and 2008, it will take time for their impact to work their way to studentperformance. PISA 2009 shows that there has been little improvement in the equity of the Bulgarianeducation system as evidenced by the poor performance of small schools and sociallydisadvantaged groups, including linguistic minorities. Small schools have been excluded from theimprovements and it is not clear whether linguistic minorities benefitted from the overall increasedperformance of the system. Future reform efforts need to address these outstanding challenges. 1 The report was published on June 25, 2010. The authors of the report used the PISA 2006 survey data (the latestavailable at the time of writing) for assessing the quality aspects of the education system.  2 Assessing the Quality of Education in Bulgaria using PISA 2009 2 December 2010 1.   Introduction The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 survey results were released onDecember 7, 2010 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). PISA2009 results focus on reading, as they did in 2000 when the tests were first applied. In reading,Bulgaria’s 2009 mean score rose by 27 points over the 2006 level, reaching 429 points. In absoluteterms this score ranks Bulgaria 46th among the 74 participating countries. However, in terms of improvement, Bulgaria ranks 7 th , with only two regional peers – Serbia and Romania – showinghigher gains in reading (41 and 28 points).The Bulgaria School Autonomy reforms began in 1998 with the delegation of some financialdecisions to schools, but the most sweeping reforms began in 2007 with school directors being givenauthority over a wide range of school decisions and policies as well as a unified per student coststandard and delegated budgets. As a result, PISA 2006 provides a baseline measure of studentachievement. The recent release of PISA 2009 now provides student achievement data to examinehow learning achievement has evolved since the reform. Since the majority of the schoolingreceived by the 15 year-olds being tested in PISA 2009 occurred prior to the reforms – most of thesestudents would have finished primary before 2007 – the assessment is not an evaluation of theimpact of the specific reforms, but rather a barometer of how the system is faring a few years afterthe introduction of the sweeping reforms. Thus, PISA provides a national benchmark with which tomeasure system-wide educational progress. The data provide insights on the relationship betweenthe reform period and changes in student achievement, equity of achievement, and where variationexists, school autonomy and parents’ involvement in school decisions. The 2006 to 2009 periodrepresents an intermediate assessment of the progress of the reforms overall.This paper examines the change in scores over time during the reform period from 2006 to 2009. Itlooks at how much of the change can be attributed to improvements in the quality of the educationsystem (as opposed to changes to the students’ background characteristics), how the poor, linguisticminorities (in absence of data on the Roma), and students at small schools fared over this period, aswell as the relationship between various types of school autonomy and achievement. The followingpoints summarize the results of this analysis: ã   There were large increases in PISA math and reading – between 2006 and 2009 math andreading scores increased by 14 and 27 points, equivalent to one-half and one year of learninggain ã   All of the increase is attributed to improvements in the quality of the education system (not to changes in the characteristics of the student population) ã   The poorest 20 percent of students improved just as much as the overall population However, at the same time, there are some unanswered questions. Little evidence exists in PISA2009 on the link between school autonomy or parent’s involvement and achievement in Bulgaria.Also, students in small schools may have been excluded from improvements in the system’s quality.It is not clear whether linguistic minorities benefited from improvements in the system’s quality.These are questions for future rounds of PISA to consider.  2 Prepared by Kevin Macdonald, Economist, World Bank, with inputs from Plamen Danchev, Education Economist, World Bank, under thesupervision of Harry Anthony Patrinos, Lead Education Economist World Bank. This is an update of the chapters on quality and equity that appear inthe report, World Bank (2010)  A Review of the Bulgaria School Autonomy Reforms . Report No. 54890-BG. Washington, DC: World Bank. Veryuseful comments and suggestions were received from Markus Repnik and Alberto Rodriguez. Findings presented are preliminary, the opinions are of the authors and should not be attributed to the World Bank Group.  3Due to the limitations of the data to measure the impact of the reforms on learning, the policyimplications from this analysis stem from the equity findings. First, the lack of evidence thatlinguistic minorities are benefitting from improvements in the quality of the education systemsuggest the need for further analysis of disparities in education and targeting. For example,identifying linguistic minorities in national data and national assessments would be useful forunderstanding how to better target these groups and the challenges they face; increasing the role of these groups in school and higher level decisions may also ensure the education system is adequatelyserving the special needs of these groups. The success in including the poorest 25 percent in theincrease in the quality of the education system also warrants further research. Understanding whymay provide both Bulgarian (and other countries’) policy makers with important lessons that can beapplied to other sub-populations such as linguistic minorities and to other sectors where thegovernment is the major service provider. 2.   Quality over Time Since the school autonomy reforms in Bulgaria were system-wide, it is difficult to evaluate itsimpact on student achievement since there exists no suitable control group. However, while theimpact of the reform cannot be attributed, an analysis of how PISA scores have changed over theperiod corresponding to the reform period is still instructive.   Table 1: Differences in Performance Over Time Math Reading Science2006 413.4 401.9 434.02009 428.1 429.1 439.3Difference 14.6 ***(9.0)  27.2 ***(10.5)  5.2  (9.2) Source: Author's calculations using Bulgaria PISA 2006 and 2009* Statistical significance at 1% level There has been a significant increase in math and reading achievement since 2006. WhileBulgaria had witnessed a decline in PISA achievement from 2000 to 2006, this trend has nowreversed. Table 1 (and Figure 1) compares PISA 2006 to 2009 in all three subject areas, and asdemonstrated, there has been a statistically significant increase in math and reading achievementsince 2006, of 14 and 27 points, or 0.14 and 0.27 standard deviations. Science achievement alsoincreased, but giving the sampling variation, it cannot be ruled out, statistically, that there was noachievement. Compared with other countries, Bulgaria’s improved performance becomes even moresignificant . While EU countries on average made no progress since 2006, Bulgaria improved its   380390400410420430440450MathReadingScience Figure 1: Differences in PISA Performance 2006 vs 2009 20062009
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