On the Efficiency Costs of De-tracking Secondary Schools
During the postwar period, many countries have de-tracked their secondary schools, based on the view that early tracking was unfair. What are the e¢ ciency costs, if any, of de-tracking schools? To answer this question, we develop a two skills - two jobs model with a frictional labour market, where new school graduates need to actively search for their best match. We compute optimal tracking length and the output gain/loss associated to the gap between actual and optimal tracking length. Using a sample of 18 countries, we find that: a) actual tracking length is often longer than optimal, which might call for some e¢ cient de-tracking; b) the output loss of having a tracking length longer or shorter than optimal is sizeable, and close to 2 percent of total net output.
In most education systems in the developed world, heterogeneous pupils are initially mixed in comprehensive schools - typically primary and lower secondary education. As some stage of the curriculum, however, some form of (self) selection takes place, typically based on ability and past performance, and students are allocated to schools which specialize in different curricula (tracks) or to classes where subjects are taught at a different level of di¢ culty (streams). The former system is typical of Central European countries, such as Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and Hungary, but exists also in Korea and Japan, and the latter system is typically observed in the US. When no selection whatsoever occurs during upper secondary school, as in some Scandinavian countries, choice and specialization are delayed until college education.