An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries
Innocenti Report Card 15
UNICEF, 2018 :: 52 pages
AUTHOR(S): Yekaterina Chzhen; Anna Gromada; Gwyther Rees
In the world’s richest countries, some children do worse at school than others because of circumstances beyond their control, such as where they were born, the language they speak or their parents’ occupations. These children enter the education system at a disadvantage and can drop further behind if educational policies and practices reinforce, rather than reduce, the gap between them and their peers. These types of inequality are unjust. Not all children have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential, to pursue their interests and to develop their talents and skills. This has social and economic costs. This report focuses on educational inequalities in 41 of the world’s richest countries, all of which are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and/or the European Union (EU). Using the most recent data available, it examines inequalities across childhood – from access to preschool to expectations of post-secondary education – and explores in depth the relationships between educational inequality and factors such as parents’ occupations, migration background, the child’s gender and school characteristics.
The key feature of the report is the league table, which summarizes the extent of educational inequalities at preschool, primary school and secondary school levels. The indicator of inequality at the preschool level is the percentage of students enrolled in organized learning one year before the official age of primary school entry. The indicator for both primary school (Grade 4, around age 10) and secondary school (age 15) is the gap in reading scores between the lowest- and highest-performing students.
National wealth does not guarantee education equality, UNICEF report says
An Unfair Start: Inequality in children’s education in rich countries launched today
FLORENCE/NEW YORK, 30 October 2018 – Living in a rich country does not guarantee equal access to quality education, according to Report Card 15 from UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti. Children in less wealthy countries often perform better at school despite fewer national resources, the report says.
An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries ranks 41 member countries of the European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on the extent of educational inequalities at preschool, primary and secondary school levels. It uses the latest available data to examine the link between children’s achievement and factors such as parents’ occupation, migration background, gender and school characteristics.
The report focuses on two child-centred indicators of inequality: At preschool level the indicator is the percentage of students enrolled in organized learning one year before the official age for entering primary school; The indicator for both primary school (Grade 4, around age 10) and secondary school (age 15) is the gap in reading scores between the lowest- and highest-performing students. The ranking at age 15 is the lead indicator in the report because this represents the level of inequality towards the end of compulsory education.
“What our report shows is that countries can offer their children the best of both worlds: They can achieve standards of excellence in education and have relatively low inequality,” said Dr Priscilla Idele, Director (a.i) of UNICEF Innocenti. “But all rich countries can and must do much more for children from disadvantaged families as they are the most likely to fall behind.”
Countries have different degrees of educational inequality at different educational stages, the report says. Ireland and Slovenia are in the bottom third of countries for preschool enrolment, but move to the middle third at primary school and then the top third at secondary school. France has one of the highest rates of preschool enrolment but then falls to the bottom third in secondary school. The Netherlands goes from being the most equal country in primary school reading scores to ranking 26th of 38 countries when children reach 15 years of age. Towards the end of compulsory schooling, Latvia, Ireland and Spain are the three most equal countries.
In 16 of 29 European countries for which data are available, children from the poorest fifth of households have a lower preschool attendance rate than children from the richest fifth. The patterns persist throughout a child’s schooling. Among children aged 15 who are doing equally well at school, those with parents in high-status jobs are much more likely to continue into higher education than those with parents in low-status jobs.
In 21 out of 25 countries with substantial levels of immigration children who are first-generation immigrants tend to do less well at school at age 15 than non-migrant children. In 15 countries, second-generation immigrant children also do less well than non-migrant children. However, in Australia and Canada, second-generation immigrant children do better than non-migrant children. These patterns reflect varying patterns of migration to different countries…