Academic journal article International Education Studies

School Facilities and Student Achievement in Industrial Countries: Evidence from the TIMSS

Academic journal article International Education Studies

School Facilities and Student Achievement in Industrial Countries: Evidence from the TIMSS

Article excerpt


This paper studies the link between school facilities (buildings and grounds) and student achievement in eight countries using data from the TIMSS 2003 database. The results indicate a negative relationship, but the estimated coefficients are mainly insignificant. Interestingly, the coefficients differ heavily across countries. Whereas there seem to be adverse consequences from poor facilities in Australia, The Netherlands and Japan, there is no significant effect in the remaining five countries. It remains an open question for future research why facilities seem to play such a different role across countries. The main lesson to be learnt from the present investigation is that school facilities seem to have different impact across countries.

Keywords: educational production, school facilities

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1. Introduction

How to create a good learning environment in schools is, for obvious reasons, an important topic in the public debate in all advanced societies. Some are concerned about deteriorating school facilities due to low investment and insufficient maintenance. The present paper is inspired by this debate and aims to study empirically whether or not poor school facilities are associated with poor student achievement in eight industrial countries. The hypothesis is that poor school facilities will have adverse consequences for student achievement and is based on studies suggesting that improved environmental conditions may gain student achievement by reducing distractions and missed school days (Earthman, 2002 and Mendell and Heath, 2005). Some suggest that this may also benefit teachers by improving their morale and reducing absenteeism and turnover, indirectly affecting student achievement (Buckley, Schneider, and Shang, 2005).

These studies provide a set of highly plausible mechanisms through which poor school facilities may affect student achievement. A thorough investigation of these mechanisms is beyond the scope of this paper. Rather, I hypothesize that all these mechanisms should eventually lead to an effect on the students' ability to perform, measured in test scores. Thus, I use survey data on school facilities combined with test scores to explore the hypothesis. The data is obtained from the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) 2003 database, which in addition to test scores includes rich survey data. The survey data provides background information regarding the students (including family background), school districts and schools. Among the information about the school is a broad measure of the quality of the school's facilities and I use this measure to generate my key explanatory variables.

There are mainly three studies that are closely related to this paper. First, Cellini, Ferreira, and Rothstein (2010) study effects of investments in school facilities in Californian school districts, using a regression discontinuity design to obtain exogenous variation in the investments. Their main contribution is that they identify a significantly positive effect on housing prices from investment in school facilities. For my purposes, however, the main interest is related to the next step of their investigation. There they study whether the increase in housing prices may be explained by a higher quality on education due to the investments. Interestingly, the long-run effects on student achievement are far from strong enough to explain the effect on housing prices. In fact they draw the conclusion that there is, at best, weak evidence in favor of the hypothesis that increased investment in school facilities will boost student achievement. An interesting implication of their findings is thus that the value of investment in school facilities is not restricted to improvement of scholastic achievement. Second, Neilson and Zimmerman (2011) study a school construction project in Connecticut. They identify a significant effect from investment in school facilities of as much as 21 percent of a standard deviation. …

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