Social promotion in primary school: immediate and cumulated effects on attainment

Margaret Alice Leighton, Priscila Souza, Stéphane Straub

    Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper

    3 Downloads (Pure)


    Does social promotion perpetuate shortfalls in student achievement, or can low-achieving students catch up with their peers when they are pushed ahead? Using data from Brazilian primary schools, this paper presents evidence of substantial catch up among socially promoted students. After documenting sorting across schools in response to the policy, in particular away from gated- promotion private schools, we show that social promotion cycles has no significant effect on municipality enrolment figures or on the percentage of students dropping out mid-year. Cohorts of students exposed to episodes of social pro- motion display higher rates of age-appropriate study than their peers who faced the threat of repetition each year: by age eleven, 5.6 fewer students out of 100 have fallen behind in their studies, while 5.1 fewer students out of 100 are two or more years delayed. These gains, which arise mechanically during the period of social promotion, are highly persistent over time – even through educational stages which are typically high-stakes. This evidence suggests that, absent the social promotion policy, retention rates in Brazilian primary schools are inefficiently high: many promoted students successfully pass gateway exams after being pushed ahead, and go on to complete junior primary school on time.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationSt Andrews
    PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
    Number of pages92
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2016

    Publication series

    NameSchool of Economics and Finance Discussion Paper
    PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
    ISSN (Print)0962-4031
    ISSN (Electronic)2055-303X


    • Education policy
    • Primary school
    • Grade repetition
    • Grade retention
    • Social promotion
    • Automatic promotion
    • Brazil


    Dive into the research topics of 'Social promotion in primary school: immediate and cumulated effects on attainment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this