Effects of Public and Private Schools on Academic Achievement

By Hahn, Sunku; Kim, Tae-Hwan et al. | Seoul Journal of Economics, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Effects of Public and Private Schools on Academic Achievement


Hahn, Sunku, Kim, Tae-Hwan, Seo, Boyoung, Seoul Journal of Economics


I. Introduction

This study investigated the effects of (1) single-sex and coeducational schools, (2) public1 and private schools, and (3) average per capita income of the students' households on the academic performance of high school students in Korea. In addition to the studies that have focused on this topic, our research contributes to literature by using a unique dataset from the Korean high school system.

In most countries, students are allowed to choose which high school to apply for. Thus, in these societies, the academic ability and household income level of students in public schools are not necessarily the same as those in private schools. Likewise, the amount of tuition in private schools is usually higher than those in public schools. Therefore, the private school students' better academic performance compared with that of public school students cannot be considered as evidence in support of the hypothesis; that is, private schools provide better education to students than public school because the former usually attracts students that have better academic performance and higher household incomes. Thus, a selection bias exists.

The high school system in Korea, however, is different from that of other countries. In particular, middle school graduates in Korea are randomly assigned to any of the high school located near the residence of the student, regardless of the type of school-that is, whether the high school is public or private, or whether it is boys-only, girls-only, or coeducational. Furthermore, government regulation dictates that the levels of tuition be the same for all high schools in Korea, regardless whether it is private or public. Thus, private high schools in Korea neither have the advantages in terms of the academic abilities of new students nor in financial resources. Thus, the academic performance and profit levels are uniformly distributed among students of public/private schools and among students of single-sex/coeducational schools so long as they belong to the same school district. In a sense, the data from Korean high schools are very close to an experimentally controlled dataset. Therefore, any difference in the academic performance between the institutions at the time of graduation can indicate which type of school has contributed more to the academic achievement of its students.

Existing studies, including the works of Peterson et aL (2006). Chubb and Moe (1990). and Coleman et al. (1982), have agreed about the effects of public and private high schools to some extent; that is, private high schools tend to produce better performing students in terms of academics as compared with public schools. Using the unique Korean dataset, the present study has likewise found that the academic achievement of students in private schools is better than that in public. Owing to the unique characteristic of the dataset, the results of this study can strongly reinforce the conclusion made by previous studies.

Almost all high schools in Korea are equally divided among boys-only. girls-only, or coeducational high schools. Given that we have abundant observations from the three types of high schools, we can draw a meaningful comparison. Moreover, that middle school graduates are randomly assigned to a single-sex or a coeducational high school helps evaluate the additional academic value introduced by these schools without any selection bias.

Previous findings are somewhat varied in that some studies have reported that enrolling in exclusive schools results in higher academic achievement for both boys and girls (Lee and Bryk 1986; Woodward et aL 1999). By contrast, other studies maintained that coeducational schools produce higher educational outcomes for both groups (Garcia 1998). Riordan (1994) proposed that single-sex schooling provides higher achievement for boys, and coeducational offers better outcome for girls. Conversely, Daly (1996) and Marsh (1989) concluded that no difference exists in the academic performance among students from different types of school. …

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