Educational inequality is the disparity that certain students experience in their education as compared to other students. The measures of educational success focus on grades, test scores, drop-out rates, college entrance numbers, and college completion rates. A variety of research links the inequality to socioeconomic, racial, and geographic reasons.
It is important to acknowledge that educational inequality is greatly determined by economic, and thus racial, lines. Children who come from poor families experience this inequality, which puts them at a disadvantage from the start. Not only important are resources students may or may not receive from family, but schools themselves vary greatly in the resources they give their students.
Social immobility expresses itself in lower class children who follow in the same path as their parents, mainly not obtaining higher education. The result of such choices is that the poor remain poor and the rich go to college. Reasons for poor children opting to not pursue higher education range across a variety of different explanations. Lower class children have not grown up with the same expectations of life because these have not been instilled in them by their parents, or most importantly, by the educational system.
Out of 200 million children in the age group of 6 to 14 in India, around 59 million do not attend school. Of the rest, who are currently in school, four out of every 10 children beginning to attend school will drop out before completing their primary school education. In addition, various studies of children’s learning achievement indicates that the situation is actually grim.
The aim of education imparted should be to bring changes not only in the amount of knowledge gained but also in the abilities to do so, to think and to acquire habits, skills and attitude which characterize an individual who is socially accepted and adjusted.
Even children with proven academic ability fall behind if they grow up in families that are poor. By the age of 3, one study showed, poor children already have half the vocabulary of higher-income children. Another study showed that children in high-risk social and economic environments can start in the top 25% academically at the age of 4 but fall to the bottom by the time they are in high school. Only 29% of the highest-achieving eighth-graders complete college if they come from low-income families.
In contrast, 30% of the lowest-achieving eighth-graders and 74% of the highest-achieving eighth-graders complete college if they come from high-income families. Until we get to a point where ability and effort predictably lead to greater educational attainment and improved outcomes, many kids will stop trying because the obstacles become too daunting.
Race greatly influences economic standing, with children of color being the most likely to be poor and have no assets. Children start out very similarly up until about 2. Then economic circumstances start to influence outcomes, and children begin to diverge in achievement before they even enter school. These disparities continue even once formal education begins.
Children with limited economic resources are more likely to live in disadvantaged neighborhoods and face toxic stress that can lead to permanent lowered brain functioning, further limiting educational achievement.
Until we provide a pathway of success for all children, regardless of economic standing, it will be hard to sustain a strong and vibrant society and economy.
There are proven tools to increase opportunity for children if we have the political will to implement them, things such as universal high-quality preschool and child savings accounts that provide resources to reach long-term goals.
Some might think that a child’s educational future is the responsibility of that child’s parents alone. Others believe that enough government money already goes to help poor people. Only 32% of entitlement benefits and 2.8% of tax expenditure benefits go to the lowest-income earners. And many programs, such as rental assistance and child care, don’t reach everyone who is eligible.
But regardless of what you think about the current mix of government programs, educational outcomes are too tightly linked to parents’ economic status. Many children start out school eager to learn and wanting to achieve. But as it seems that no one cares about their efforts and their basic needs are not being met with each passing grade, they start to become less engaged in school and search for other ways to survive. This is tragic and unacceptable.
Therefore, it is very important to do some efforts to remove this inequality so that poor children can also become well educated and to be able to improve their life and status.