Cross-country comparisons of student achievement: the role of social values

Bogdan Voicu


This paper looks at country-average results in surveys of student-achievements like PISA, PIRLS or TIMSS. As other recent papers do (Fensham, 2007; Minkov, 2008), I advance the idea that the between-countries differences are determined by cultural factors. Focusing on the macro-level, I discuss social values as part of the contextual determinants for student achievement. Values are defining features of the unwritten, but powerful, hidden curriculum (Cornbleth, 2002), and are likely to have strong impact on learning. I combine macro-data computed from the values surveys (EVS/WVS 1990-2008), respectively PISA, TIMSS, and PIRLS (1999-2009). Cross-classified models assess the effect of dominant social values on student achievement. The findings show that a society that places high value on autonomy in child rearing creates an environment for higher student achievement. Conversely, promoting authoritarian values as a priority for younger generations has the opposite effect. The effect is even stronger for achievements in mathematics.


child-rearing values; student achievements; comparative large-scale surveys of student achievement; social values; school and society.

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