The Effect of Subject-Specific Teacher Qualifications on Student Science Achievement

Vera Freundl, Pietro Sancassani

Key Messages

  • Students perform 3.5% of a standard deviation higher in science subjects in which their teachers hold a subject-specific qualification, an effect roughly equivalent to a 2 hour-increase in weekly instruction time.
  • The results were obtained from a 30-country international setting.
  • The effect is larger for female students, especially when taught by female teachers, and for students from a lower socioeconomic background.
  • The effect is also larger for developing and lower-performing countries.
  • Increased confidence to teach science explains 20% of the effect of subject-specific teacher qualifications.

What makes a good teacher? This is one of the central questions in the economics of education. General teacher qualifications, such as education level or advanced degrees, tend to be poor predictors of teacher quality. Instead, some studies have shown that subject-specific qualifications predict teacher quality better. However, the vast majority of such studies are based on data from the United States. It is therefore unclear to what extent the findings can be generalized to other nations, as teacher education programs vary widely across countries. The lack of international evidence is particularly problematic for developing economies, which would arguably benefit most from improving student achievement.


Vera Freundl, Pietro Sancassani: “The Effect of Subject-Specific Teacher Qualifications on Student Science Achievement,” EconPol Policy Brief 51, May 2023.