Grade retention and student achievement: what is the impact over time?

Author(s): Schumann, Nadim

Organisation(s): Université de Bourgogne (France). Institut de recherche sur l'économie de l'éducation

Date: 2012

Pages: 25 p.


Repetition rates in francophone sub-Saharan Africa are exceedingly high when compared to other world regions. These high rates pose a heavy burden on education systems struggling to achieve higher enrolment and better quality in primary education. Against the backdrop of the Education for All initiative and the Millennium Development Goals to achieve universal primary education of high quality the urgency to tackle high repetition rates increases. This research uses a unique panel data set from Senegalese primary schools in which the same students have been followed and tested over a period of five years to shed light on the impact of retention on subsequent achievement. We use a multi-level propensity score matching model that incorporates the development path of students with respect to their achievement and many other relevant student, teacher and school characteristics to infer the impact of retention. We find that in general retention has a negative effect on a student’s achievement in subsequent years and for one specification that an initial positive effect vanishes over time. Given the overwhelmingly negative effect of retention even after three and four years we cast doubt on the effectiveness of high repetition rates.

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