Question module for measuring educational attainment

The education question module consists of a few compulsory and several optional questions. The question module is available in English, French, German and Spanish (see below). The question names, which you will also find in the questionnaire files for download at the bottom of this page, are indicated in square brackets ([examplename]) below.

The standard minimum questionnaire item for educational attainment asks for the respondent’s highest educational qualification obtained.  Our tool offers a responsive survey design by taking the educational system in which the respondent was educated into account, which is particularly useful in surveys of migrants or cross-national surveys working with integrated questionnaire software.

Because it is sometimes difficult for respondents to say which is their highest qualification, the module offers an optional loop, so that data on several qualifications can be collected, starting with (what the respondent thinks is) the highest.

Flow of questions in the education question module


  • 1. [edint] An intro clarifying the scope of formal education to respondents. This intro can be skipped if only the Search Tree (see question 3.2) is implemented.

Identification of the relevant educational system

  • 2. Then, the respondent is asked where he/she has obtained his/her highest educational qualification in order to identify the educational system relevant for this respondent. 
    • 2.1 [edqctxxx with the final xx to be replaced by 2-digit alphanumeric country code, e.g. gb for the UK] To keep this question as simple as possible, in a first step only those education contexts most relevant in the survey country are shown to the respondent. In most countries, this is the survey country, and the summary alternative "abroad". Depending on the country, this may include language information (e.g. in Belgium, respondents may have been educated in the Flemish- or French-speaking part) or regional information (e.g. in the UK, Scotland has a different educational system than England).
    • 2.2 [edqctxall] When the respondent indicates in the first step that he/she was educated abroad, in a second step, a complete list of countries is shown. In surveys of migrants, one could directly jump to the second step.

Note: In the web survey version, the respective list of responses is generated dynamically depending on the country in which survey is run (which has to be specified during setup). In the personal interview version, this has to be programmed in the CAPI software.

Core question on highest educational qualification obtained

  • 3. Then, when asked about the highest educational qualification obtained, educational qualifications relevant for the respective educational system are shown to the respondent to choose from. There are two complementary interfaces: 
    • 3.1 [edqcb] Combination Box: Using this interface, survey interviewers/respondents are asked to enter the response into a text field. The text entered is dynamically (i.e. with each letter) submitted to a search algorithm. The written response is matched with the educational qualifications in the database, for the educational system that was selected in the preceding question. The interface presents the resulting list of educational qualifications to the interviewer/respondent, and he/she can then select the best match. If no match is found, the typed text is saved as a string. This interface is called the ‘Combination Box’ because it works both as a search field and open text box. In CAPI surveys that will likely move to CASI mode here, this question is preceded by an introduction and instruction for this mode change [edqcbint].
    • 3.2 [edqst] Search Tree: Using this interface, a search tree is provided. It is close to the show cards or response lists in standard educational attainment questionnaire items, but offers a richer set of response options, which are structured according to the internal structure of the selected educational system (like a nested showcard). This can help respondents who cannot spontaneously name their highest qualification. It is also useful when the script of the language of the relevant education system does not correspond to the script of the keyboard used by the survey/respondent, i.e. when interviewing migrants. In CAPI surveys that will likely move to CASI mode here, this question is preceded by an introduction and instruction for this mode change [edqstint].

Surveys can choose whether they wish to implement only the Search Tree, or whether they wish to implement the Combination Box using the Search Tree as a fall-back for those respondents who do not select any match from the database in the Combination Box. This latter setup is what you see in the demo. If the Search Tree is used as fall-back in CAPI, the mode change introduction and instruction is not repeated, i.e. [edqstint] is dropped. One could also adapt the questionnaire in such a way as to first provide the Search Tree, adding a response option “Other qualification”, and offering the Combination Box to those respondents choosing this option.

For countries not (yet) covered in the database, and respondents who did not generate valid data using the above interfaces, we suggest to use an open question for respondents to name their qualification [edqopn].

Optional questions

  • 4. Then, the optional questions including the optional loop for further educational qualifications follow. The following pieces of information are asked for:
    • 4.1 [edqyr] The year in which the educational qualification just mentioned was obtained;
    • 4.2 [edqflt2] Whether the respondent has obtained any other educational qualifications  (if yes, he/she is routed back to question 1 of the module with slight changes in wording to reflect that we are not talking about the highest educational qualification any more, see questionnaire files below for details);
    • 4.3 [edqyrs] How many years the respondent has spent in formal education in total. This indicator is often used as an additional indicator of human capital, and could be used for deriving modal years of education for educational qualifications. 

Language versions of the education question module

The question module was translated using TRAPD standards. Download the education question module described above in the following languages: