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Does schooling actually perpetuate educational inequality in mathematics performance? A question of validity

Conference contribution
Authors Kajsa Yang Hansen
Rolf Streitholt
Published in at the 7th IEA International Research Conference, 28-30, June, 2017, Prague
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Language en
Keywords Opportunity to Learn (OTL), measurement property, PISA 2012, Comparative education, confirmatory factor analysis, factor score
Subject categories Educational Sciences, Pedagogy


International assessments on mathematics showed persistent and for many intensified socioeconomic inequalities in achievement worldwide. Such achievement gaps may partly be due to the differences in student’s cognitive abilities, and other personal characteristics. It may also be attributed to the schooling itself, where the school system provides differentiated opportunity to learn (OTL), and thus perpetuates social gaps in children’s learning outcomes. However, previous research on the mechanism of the relationship among socioeconomic status (SES), academic achievement and OTL led to inconclusive results. The present study is to examine the determinants to educational inequality in mathematics achievement through linking it together SES and OTL. Special attention is given to construct validity of OTL in PISA 2012 and try to elucidate the contradictory reading findings. Our analysis of PISA 2012 data revealed two latent dimensions of the OTL indicators, namely an unbiased OTL dimension and a self-concept dimension. The relationship between social background and math achievement was not mediated by OTL, when effects of student’s self-concept factor being controlled for. Our results suggested that the previous research findings that the schooling perpetuating social gaps in mathematics performance suffered from a construct validity problem.

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