Measuring education across different institutional settings: Lessons from longitudinal and cross-national studies

Convenor: Ms Kerstin Hoenig
Affiliation: Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi)

Session Details

The comparative measurement of educational attainment is a continuing problem due to the complexity and heterogeneity of educational systems as well as the complexity of individual educational pathways within those systems. Challenges arise at each step of the survey process, from the correct mapping of educational systems to the questions that are asked in surveys and finally the coding standards employed to derive common classifications. Recall error and social desirability can cause significant problems when respondents are asked to provide information about their education history. The aim of this session is to combine experiences from cross-national and longitudinal studies to improve the measurement of educational credentials and educational pathways.

Due to time restrictions, cross- national surveys usually collect a standardized measure of respondents’ highest educational degree. Classifications like ISCED and CASMIN aim to provide comparable indicators across countries, but a unified standard for the measurement and coding of the information that forms the basis for these classifications has yet to emerge. These problems are especially pronounced for comparisons between countries. But even within countries, education reforms and migration can lead to increased measurement error for subgroups who did not attend the education system the survey is geared to. An increased effort in mapping education systems and use of specialized software could reduce measurement error, respondent burden, and coding efforts.

Meanwhile, one of the main lessons from longitudinal surveys is that education is a continuing life-long experience, often requiring periodic updates, re-training, or additional programs. By focusing on a single degree, authors of cross-sectional surveys often think of educational attainment as being something that is attained early in life with minimal changes thereafter. We argue that cross-sectional and especially cross-national research might benefit greatly from this life-course perspective.

Finally, measurements of educational pathways and credentials are challenged by educational reforms and technological change. Two important examples are the adoption of vocational training qualifications and the growth of online educational services in various countries.

Topics might include:
• Advances in the measurement and coding of educational credentials
• Advances in the measurement of educational pathways, especially ways to collect educational change and pattern data in a cross-national survey
• Papers that address the continuing nature of education and focus on non-traditional forms of education
• Comparisons of different educational classifications – ISCED, CASMIN, or national classifications
• Measuring the education of migrants and other subgroups