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While sharing common goals, nations differ in the way they approach the organisation of programs and schools. Some nations offer structured programs combining academic and vocational elements in mainly comprehensive school settings; others offer differentiated streams, delivered in different types of school, with delayed academic selection; while others have a differentiated school system based on early selection with academic and terminal types of school and workplace-based vocational training. A comparative international study offers one of the best ways to really capture the extent to which the institutional framework of a school system impacts on student outcomes.
The extent to which systems shape student attitudes, achievement and destinations can also be linked to a range of individual student, family background, labour market, economy, neighbourhood and community factors. These include student prior educational achievement, family and school socioeconomic status, migration experience, race, ethnicity, gender and locality. ISCY aims to examine the interaction between student, community and system characteristics, to better understand how systems respond to student diversity and aggravate or attenuate differences in outcomes across different groups.
A comparative international study provides a good way to capture how the institutional framework of a school system interacts with the characteristics of the students themselves, and determines how successfully they make the transition from school to adult life. The project explores international differences by examining education systems through the microcosm of cities in different countries. By tracking one cohort of 10th Grade students in each city over five years, the study will make the impact of education systems more visible and accessible to researchers, policy-makers, and all stakeholders with an interest in the outcomes of schooling.