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Does Size Count Down Under? Australian School Performance, School Size and Public Policy

PAQ, Vol. 43 No. 4, (2019)

In principle, education research might be expected to yield evidence on the determinants of success that could then be used to inform public policy. However, if key determinants are missing from empirical specifications, then public policy decisions may well be made in a vacuum. Moreover, if empirical work is informed by disparate conceptual approaches, then public policies may be formulated, which ultimately work at cross-purposes. We examine the issue of school size from both the economic and the ecological perspective. Our regressions on a seven year panel of Australian data suggest that there is a trade-off to be made between efficiency on the one hand, and the desire to lift academic standards on the other. Failure to consider the question of school size from both economic and ecological perspectives means that an important public policy lever has largely gone unrecognised in Australia. We conclude our essay with a consideration of the public policy implications arising from our work.

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