Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 18, Iss. 1, January, 2014, pp. 91-108
@2014 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


A Dynamic Nonlinear Model for Educational Systems: A Simulation Study for Primary Education

Porfirio Guevara, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
Luis Lopez, INCAE Business School, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Alfred Posch, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
Roy Zuniga, INCAE Business School, Alajuela, Costa Rica

Abstract: This article improves our understanding of the causal processes driving the dynamic behavior of education systems using a System Dynamics approach. The model presented here has three state variables: Population, Population in Primary School, and Primary School Graduates whose values are calibrated for the case of Nicaragua. It also includes nonlinear complex interactions between critical factors, e.g., the state of the economy, the state of the education system, and population literacy that affect the system’s transition rates -intake, repetition, dropout, and promotion- which therefore influence the dynamics of schooling outcomes. These schooling outcomes in turn affect population literacy and economic progress in the country thus generating aggregate patterns that continuously change (and are changed by) the inputs that endogenously determine them, which could potentially explain why educational systems exhibit persistently good or bad outcomes. Simulation runs show a strong correspondence with observed data and additionally the model provides meaningful insights to guide policy making in educational reform, such as the ability to reveal the presence of ”ghost students”. This paper concludes that complex dynamic systems modeling and simulation can facilitate forecasting of school system behavior and the detection of policy inconsistencies, something conventional modeling cannot do.

Keywords: feedback, complexity, nonlinearities, computer simulation, forecasting