Living in a rich country does not guarantee equal access to quality education, according to a UNICEF report. 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.
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.
“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 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.”
[Read full UNICEF article]