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How do you measure the outcomes of general education (up to 12th grade) and higher education (college and above) in a given country? what are some indicators you would suggest I use?

If we were to look in education in a specific country in a certain period, how would we benchmark those outcomes? What indicators are used for this purpose?

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As a starting point, you may take a look at the PISA study. It is conducted by the OECD in ca. 80 countries around the world. It uses various indicators to assess (1) reading performance, (2) mathematics performance, and (3) science performance on a country-level (disaggregated by gender and age group).

Here is an example visualizing the 2018 mean reading performance of girls and boys, with the x-axis designating various countries (source):

reading performance of girls and boys, with the x-axis showing the various countries

For more detailed information on the PISA study and its methodology, I would suggest you to browse through OECD's library, or to directly go to the PISA website.

As regards higher education institutes, the indicators will differ significantly - usually, they deal with research outputs in scientific journals, the number of citations accrued by those publications, the share of national and international collaboration with other researchers around the world, the amount of grants and funding obtained by the institute's faculty, or the teaching-staff-to-student-ratio. One illustrative example is the THE World University Ranking. (But note that the reliability and credibility of these rankings may be subject to biases and methodical flaws.)

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