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Equality of Opportunity in Education in the Middle East and North Africa

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani () and Nadia Belhaj Hassine ()

Working Papers from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Economics

Abstract: This paper is an empirical investigation of inequality of education opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). We use student scores from tests administered by the international consortium Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) for a number of MENA countries and over time since 1999 to estimate the effect of circumstances children are born into on their academic achievement in science and mathematics. From the variation in inequality of education opportunities across countries and over time we draw lessons on the influence of different education systems or changes in policy on equality of opportunity. We find that inequality of opportunities explains a signifcant part of the inequality in educational achievements in most MENA countries, but in a few cases, notably Algeria, its role is small. Family background variables are the most important determinants of inequality in achievement, followed by community characteristics. Inequality of education opportunities are high in several MENA countries, and have either stayed the same or worsened in recent years. The results show that, despite great efforts in past decades to invest in free public education, in most MENA countries are less opportunity equal in educational achievement that European countries, and several are less equal than Latin America countries and the United States. There is plenty of room for policy to further level the playing feld in education. We discuss how our results shed light on policy choices in education that can contribute to greater equality of education and income in the region.

Keywords: Equality of opportunity; Education; Middle East and North Africa (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-afr, nep-ara, nep-edu and nep-lab
Date: 2012
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