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Competent teachers can help disadvantaged students achieve educational qualifications, finds a new study by the ifo Institute. “The good news is: poor starting opportunities in life are not irreversible. To a great extent, educational success also depends on the school environment ­– and especially on the teachers. That leaves the education system with considerable room for maneuver,” says ifo researcher Benjamin Arold.

The study is based on comprehensive survey and administrative data from the United States on more than 3,000 participants who attended high school in the 1994/1995 school year and have been surveyed repeatedly since then. The researchers drew on data gathered using the latest microbiological techniques. This meant their analysis could employ inherited preconditions as a measure of poor starting opportunities.

The researchers investigated how a number of characteristics relating to the school environment affect the educational outcomes of students with different starting opportunities. It turns out that competent teachers are especially important for the educational success of disadvantaged students. In contrast, smaller class sizes have no effect on educational success.

“So, not only can better teachers raise students’ overall level of achievement, but they can also help bring about equality of opportunity. That’s what policymakers should focus on,” Arold says.

Source: ifo Institute