The Future of Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Variability of the Schooling Effects on Cognitive Development: The Case of the West Bank

Dua Jabr, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel)

Sorel Cahan, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel)


Schooling is considered the major factor underlying the development of cognitive abilities. However, the possible variability of schooling effects, both between and within educational systems  have been ignored. This study aims to estimate the combined effect of poor schooling quality, students’ low ability level to benefit from schooling and unfavorable contextual variables on the magnitude of the schooling effect on children’s cognitive development and to compare the findings to results obtained in supportive contexts. Additionally, this study aims to illustrate the differences between educational subsystems within the same country, between subpopulations of schools and between subpopulations of students in the absolute and relative (to the corresponding effect of age) magnitude of the schooling effects. 

The study was conducted in the difficult environment of the Palestinian West Bank in 2013 in a sample of 6000 grade 5 – 9 students. Cognitive ability was measured by three major tests (verbal, numerical, and figural).  The effects of schooling on the cross-sectional increase in mean subtest (verbal, numerical, figural) and total scores were estimated by means of the quasi-experimental between-grade regression discontinuity design.

The findings (1) indicate that difficult contextual conditions, such as  poverty (at both the individual and system levels), political oppression, and military restrictions, are likely to attenuate to a considerable extent the effects of both schooling and out –of school experiences on children’s cognitive development, thereby slowing down this developmental process; and (2) reveal the existence of considerable variability within the Palestinian public educational system of the West Bank between the two school subsystems (Government and UNRWA), between subpopulations of schools (differing in the economic level of their student populations) and between subpopulations of students (differing in their SES level) in the absolute and relative effects of schooling on cognitive development. The study concludes that variability in the effect of schooling on cognitive development should not be ignored or masked by the exclusive reporting of total-system effects. On the contrary, its very existence should be highlighted, its magnitude estimated and its correlates explored.

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