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Structure and Agent System: Education

National Education System
Organizing Structure
Various Levels of Education; Age Cohorts
Educational Attainment; Enrollment
Intake; Graduation; Transition; Spending
Key Aggregate  Relationships 
(illustrative, not comprehensive)
Demand for and achievement in education changes with income, societal change
Public spending available for education rises with income level
Cost of schooling rises with income level
Lack (surplus) of public spending in education hurts (helps) educational access and progression
More education helps economic growth and reduces fertility
Key Agent-Class Behavior  Relationships
(illustrative, not comprehensive)
Families send children to school; Government revenue and expenditure in education


Education Model Coverage

UNESCO has developed a standard classification system for national education systems called International Standard Classification of Education, ISCED. ISCED 1997 uses a numbering system to identify the sequential levels of educational systems—namely, pre-primary, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary, post-secondary non tertiary and tertiary—which are characterized by curricula of increasing difficulty and specialization as the students move up the levels. IFs education model covers  primary (ISCED level 1), lower secondary (ISCED level 2), upper secondary (ISCED level 3), and tertiary education (ISCED levels 5A, 5B and 6).

The model covers 186 countries that can be grouped into any number of flexible country groupings, e.g., UNESCO regions, like any other sub-module of IFs. Country specific entrance age and school-cycle length data are collected and used in IFs to represent national education systems as closely as possible. For all of these levels, IFs forecast variables representing student flow rates, e.g., intake, persistence, completion and graduation, and stocks, e.g., enrolment, with the girls and the boys handled separately within each country.

One important distinction among the flow rates is a gross rate versus a net rate for the same flow. Gross rates include all pupils whereas net rates include pupils who enter the school at the right age, given the statutory entrance age in the country and proceed without any repetition. The IFs education model forecasts both net and gross rates for primary education. For other levels we forecast gross rates only. It would be useful to look at the net rates at least for lower secondary, as the catch up continues up to that level. However, we could not obtain net rate data for lower secondary. 

Additionally, for lower and upper secondary, the IFs model covers both general and vocational curriculum and forecasts the vocational share of total enrolment, EDSECLOWRVOC (for lower secondary) and EDSECUPPRVOC (for upper secondary). Like all other participation variables, these two are also disaggregated by gender.

The output of the national education system, i.e., school completion and partial completion of the young people, is added to the educational attainment of the adults in the population. IFs forecasts four categories of attainment - portion with no education, completed primary education, completed secondary education and completed tertiary education - separately for men and women above fifteen years of age by five year cohorts as well as an aggregate over all adult cohorts. Model software contains so-called "Education Pyramid" or a display of educational attainments mapped over five year age cohorts as is usually done for population pyramids.

Another aggregate measure of educational attainment that we forecast is the average years of education of the adults. We have several measures, EDYEARSAG15, average years of education for all adults aged 15 and above, EDYRSAG25, average years of education for those 25 and older, EDYRSAG15TO24, average years of education for the youngest of the adults aged between fifteen years to twenty four.

IFs education model also covers financing of education. The model forecast per student public expenditure as a share of per capita income. The model also forecast total public spending in education and the share of that spending that goes to each level of education.


What the Model Does Not Cover

ISCED level 0, pre-primary, and level 4, post-secondary pre tertiary, are not common across all countries and are thus excluded from IFs education model.

On the financing side, the model does not include private spending in education, a significant share of spending especially for tertiary education in many countries and even for secondary education in some countries. Scarcity of good data and lack of any pattern in the historical unfolding precludes modelling private spending in education.

Quality of national education system can also vary across countries and over time. The IFs education model does not forecast any explicit indicator of education quality. However, the survival and graduation rates that the model forecasts for all levels of education are implicit indicators of system quality.  At this point IFs does not forecast any indicator of cognitive quality of learners. However, the IFs database does have data on cognitive quality.

The IFs education model does not cover private spending in education.


Sources of Education Data

UNESCO is the UN agency charged with collecting and maintaining education-related data from across the world. UNICEF collects some education data through their MICS survey. USAID also collects education data as a part of its Demographic and Household Surveys (DHS). OECD collects better data especially on tertiary education for its members as well as few other countries.

We collected our student flows and per student cost data from UNESCO Institute for Statistics' (UIS) web data repository. (Accessed on 05/17/2013)

For educational attainment data we use estimates by Robert Barro and Jong Wha Lee (2000). They  have published their estimates of human capital stock (i.e., the educational attainment of adults) at the website of the Center for International Development of Harvard University. In 2001, Daniel Cohen and Marcelo Soto presented a paper providing another human capital dataset for a total of ninety-five countries. We collect that data as well in our database.

When needed we also calculated our own series using underlying data from UNESCO. For example, we calculate an adjusted net intake rate for primary using the age specific intake rates that UNESCO report. We also calculated survival rates in lower and upper secondary (EDSECLOWRSUR, EDSECUPPRSUR) using a reconstructed cohort simulation method from grade-wise enrollment data for two consecutive years. The transition rate from lower to upper secondary is also calculated using grade data.


Reconciliation of Flow Rates

Incongruities among the base year primary flow rates (intake, survival, and enrollment) can arise either from reported data values that, in combination, do not make sense, or from the use of “stand-alone” cross-sectional estimations used in the IFs pre-processor to fill missing data.  Such incongruities might arise among flow rates within a single level of education (e.g., primary intake, survival, and enrollment rates that are incompatible) or between flow rates across two levels of education (e.g., primary completion rate and lower secondary intake rate).

The IFs education model uses algorithms to reconcile incongruent flow values.  They work by (1) analyzing incongruities; (2) applying protocols that identify and retain the data or estimations that are probably of higher quality; and (3) substituting recomputed values for the data or estimations that are probably of lesser quality.  For example, at the primary level, data on enrollment rates are more extensive and more straight-forward than either intake or survival data; in turn, intake rates have fewer missing values and are arguably more reliable measures than survival rates.  The IFs pre-processor reconciles student flow data for Primary by using an algorithm that assumes enrollment numbers to be more reliable than the entrance data and entrance data to be more reliable than survival data.


Variable Naming Convention

All education model variable names start with a two-letter prefix of 'ED' followed, in most cases, by the three letter level indicator - PRI for primary, SEC for secondary, TER for tertiary. Secondary is further subdivided into SECLOWR for lower secondary and SECUPPR for upper secondary. Parameters in the model, which are named using lowercase letters like those in other IFs modules, also follow a similar naming convention.