The Effects of Ability Tracking on the Academic Performance in the Secondary School: Evidence from South Korea
74 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 12, 2019
Ability tracking creates a homogenous learning environment within the classroom, by segregating high-performing and low-performing students into different groups. This paper exploits a unique policy change in South Korea combined with comprehensive micro dataset to measure the causal consequences of ability tracking, compared to the allocating students to mixed ability groups. Before the policy change, high schools selected students according to their prior academic achievement, whereas under the new policy, students are randomly assigned to high schools. Variations in the timing of the policy implementation across districts provide a difference-in-difference research design. We find that tracking benefits high performing students who study more and gain from a superior learning environment, with the expense of the academic achievement of the low-performing students. The transition to the ability mixing system caused a reduction in the students’ probability of getting into top-tier colleges. The distribution of the academic performance of the students under the non-tracking system converged to the mean, and the variance in college entrance test score across students declined. The underlying mechanism behind these results is that the positive benefits of having better peers dominate the tailored guidance of teachers. This paper emphasizes the importance of the design of the education policy in human capital development of a country.
Keywords: Tracking, Secondary Education, Government Policy, Human Capital
JEL Classification: I25, I28, J24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation