International Studies in Educational Inequality, Theory and Policy (Volume Two)

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What have we learnt from the policy experience globally? Do we know more today than yesterday about the origins of social inequality? Are our policies better framed, better designed to tackle inequality? And which way forward? What does the evidence suggest in terms of future approaches and emphasis?

David Brady, Agnes Blome, and Hanna Kleider

This work is published in three volumes which together form a 3-volume set. Often, people need proof that there is a connection between investing resources and academic success before they do it. Investment decisions are a function of both resources available and political processes, in regards to distribution of public funds. The investment a family puts into their child's education is largely reflective of the value the parent puts on education. The value placed on education is largely a combination of the parent's education level and the visual returns on education in the community the family lives in.

Sub-urban families tend to have parents with a much larger amount of education than families in rural and inner city locations. This allows sub-urban parents to have personal experience with returns on education as well as familiarity with educational systems and processes. In addition, parents can invest and transmit their own cultural capital to their children by taking them to museums, enrolling them in extra-curriculars or even having educational items in the house. In contrast, parents from rural and urban areas tend to have less education and little personal experience with its returns.

The areas they live in also put very little value on education and reduce the incentive to gain it. This leads to families that could afford to invest greater resources in their children's education not to. In the same way that a region or community that places little value on education may decrease a parent's willingness to invest in the education of their children, that community can reduce a school's willingness to allocate funding to provide advanced and in depth educational opportunities for its students.

School boards tend to invest resources in response to the demands of the community, and their communities values have been changed due to the "brain drain" mentioned previously. There is a disproportionate percentage of middle and upper-class White students labeled as gifted and talented compared to lower-class, minority students. There is also a growing gap between gifted students from low-income background and higher-income background. Arguments against standardized tests claim that they are culturally biased, favoring White students, require a certain mastery of the English language, and can lack cultural sensitivity in terms of format and presentation.

Teachers also tend to have lower expectations of minority students, even if they are identified as gifted. Forty-five states allow for parental nominations, but the nomination form is not sensitive to cultural differences and minority parents can have difficulty understanding the form. Forty-two states allow self nomination, but minority students tend not to self nominate because of social-emotional variables like peer pressure or feeling isolated or rejected by peers.

Therefore, providing their child with special instruction and enrichment.

Quality and Inequality of Education

There are many recommendations for recruiting and retaining minority students in gifted and talented education programs. It is important that the instruments used to screen students are valid, reliable, and sensitive to students from diverse cultural backgrounds. There should also be multiple types quantitative , qualitative , objective , subjective and sources teachers, parents, students of information used in the screening process. An example would be classes that focus on study skills or time management skills. More specifically, teachers should attend professional development that addresses the characteristics and behaviors of underrepresented gifted populations, awareness of cultural differences, children with multiple exceptionalities, developing positive peer culture in the classroom and school, and equitable and unbiased assessments.

These programs should help students stay in school and provide a path to a career instead of having to go to work when they are old enough, which is a major barrier students of low income families face. In addition to the unbalanced scale of gender disproportionality in formal education, students with " special needs " comprise yet another facet of educational inequality.

Prior to the passing of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act currently known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act IDEA approximately 2 million children with special needs were not receiving sufficient public education. Of those that were within the academic system, many were reduced to lower standards of teaching, isolated conditions, or even removal from school buildings altogether and relocated out of peer circulation. And while there are those that benefit from the turning of this academic tide, there are still many students most of which are minorities with disabilities that find themselves in times of learning hardship due to the unbalanced distribution of special education funding.

In 1. African American students were 3 times as likely to be labeled as special needs than that of Caucasians. Students who both are special education students and of a minority face unequal chances for a quality education to meet their personal needs. Special education referrals are, in most cases in the hands of the general education teacher, this is subjective and because of differences, disabilities can be overlooked or unrecognized.

Poorly trained teachers at minority schools, poor school relationships, and poor parent-to-teacher relationships play a role in this inequality. With these factors, minority students are at a disadvantage because they are not given the appropriate resources that would in turn benefit their educational needs. US Department of Education data shows that in — at least 13 states exhibited more than 2.

At that time national averages of caucasians labeled with the same moniker came in at 0. During this period no Individual state rose over 2. This information was calculated by data gathered from the US Department of Education. Researchers Edward Fierros and James Conroy , in their study of district level data regarding the issue of minority over-representation, have suggested that many states may be mistaken with their current projections and that disturbing minority based trends may be hidden within the numbers.


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According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act students with special needs are entitled to facilities and support that cater to their individual needs, they should not be automatically isolated from their peers or from the benefits of general education. However, according to Fierros and Conroy, once minority children such as African Americans and Latinos are labeled as students with special needs they are far less likely than caucasians to be placed in settings of inclusive learning and often receive less desirable treatment overall.

This problem of racial segregation amongst minority students with special needs is an ongoing battle in need of resolution. While historically there has been no ironclad solution to righting the wrongs of racial prejudices, there are ways in which we can all individually begin the process of equality within our educational institutions. Organizations such as the US Department of Education provide resources that we as teachers, students, parents, and concerned individuals can utilize in order to better educate ourselves on the current issues and services regarding special needs education.

One such resource is the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services OSERS which provides links to currently debated topics, programs, initiatives, reports and resources as well support services. The historical relationships in the United States between privileged and marginalized communities' play a major role in the administering of unequal and inadequate education to these socially excluded communities.

The belief that certain communities in the United States were inferior in comparison to others has allowed these disadvantages to foster into the great magnitude of educational inequality that we see apparent today. For African Americans, deliberate systematic education oppression dates back to enslavement, more specifically In , North Carolina passed legislation that prohibited slave education.

While the original legislature prohibited African Americans from being taught how to write, as other States adopted their own versions of the law, southern anti-literacy legislatures banned far more than just writing. Varying Southern laws prohibited African Americans from learning how to read, write, and assembling without the presence of slave owners. Many states as far as requiring free African Americans to leave in fear of them educating their enslaved brethren. By , the public education of all African-Americans was strictly prohibited. The enslavement of African Americans removed the access to education for generations.

Social, economic, and political barriers held blacks in a position of subordination. This form of segregation is often referred to as de jure segregation. Freedmen's schools existed but they focused on maintaining African Americans in servitude, not enriching academic prosperity. Schools were supposed to receive equal resources but there was an undoubted inequality. It was not until that Black students in the South had universal secondary education.

How Politics and Institutions Shape Poverty and Inequality

Latinos and American Indians experienced similar educational repression in the past, which effects are evident now. Latinos have been systematically shut out of educational opportunities at all levels. Evidence suggests that Latinos have experienced this educational repression in the United States as far back as This form of segregation is referred to as de facto segregation. Even after "successful" assimilation, those American Indians experienced discrimination in white society and often rejection by their tribe.

American universities are separated into various classes, with a few institutions, such as the Ivy League schools, much more exclusive than the others. Access to resources play an important role in educational inequality. In addition to the resources from family mentioned earlier, access to proper nutrition and health care influence the cognitive development of children.

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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. On December 2, , the U. Department of Education released that school districts are unevenly distributing funds, which are disproportionately underfunding low-income students. High poverty schools have less-qualified teachers with a much higher turnover rate. This lack of resources is directly linked to ethnicity and race. Black and Latino students are three times more likely than whites to be in high poverty schools and twelve times as likely to be in schools that are predominantly poor.

Within fragile states , children may be subject to inadequate education. The poor educational quality within these states is believed to be a result of four main challenges. These challenges include coordination gaps between the governmental actors, the policy maker's low priority on educational policy , limited financing, and lack of educational quality.

In the last decade, tests have been administered throughout the world to gather information about students, the schools they attend, and their educational achievements.

Global Rise of Education - Our World in Data

To calculate the different test parameters in each country and calculate a standard score, the scores of these tests are put through Item Response Theory models. Once standardized, analysts can begin looking at education through the lens of achievement rather than looking at attainment.

Through looking at achievement, the analysts can objectively examine educational inequality throughout the globe. Social mobility refers to the movement in class status from one generation to another.


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It is related to the "rags to riches" notion that anyone, with hard work and determination, has the ability to move upward no matter what background they come from. Contrary to that notion, however, sociologists and economists have concluded that, although exceptions are heard of, social mobility has remained stagnant and even decreased over the past thirty years. Research has shown that since , men and women with at least a college degree have seen an increase in hourly wages, while the wages for those with less than a college degree have remained stagnant or have decreased during the same period of time.

There are a variety of efforts by countries to assist in increasing the availability of quality education for all children. The Education For All act or EFA is a global commitment to provide quality basic education for all children, youth, and adults. In , governments pledged to achieve education for all at the World Education Forum. There are six decided-upon goals designed to reach the goal of Education for All by The entities working together to achieve these goals include governments, multilateral and development agencies, civil society and the private sector.

Although progress has been made, some countries are providing more support than others. Also, there is need to strengthen overall political commitment as well as strengthening the needed resources. Global Partnership for Education or GPE functions to create a global effort to reduce educational inequality with a focus on the poorest countries. GPE is the only international effort with their particular focus on supporting countries' efforts to educate their youth from primary through secondary education.

Main goals of the partnership include providing educational access to each child, ensuring each child masters basic numeracy and literacy skills, increasing the ability for governments to provide quality education for all, and providing a safe space for all children to learn in.

Distinguished Lecture - Amartya Sen - What is Wrong With Inequality?

They are a partnership of donor and developing countries but the developing countries shape their own educational strategy based upon their personal priorities.

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