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Report Card 15 An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries

29 Oct 2018

(30 October 2018) For the first time ever, UNICEF Innocenti  broadcast the launch of its Report Card 15: An Unfair Start – Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries –  *live* on YouTube from its offices in Florence, Italy on 30 October 2018. 

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, delivered a video address to kick off the launch event, emphasizing that, even after 200 years of public education, we still have a long way to go to close the gaps. “We still have to open doors. We still have to extend opportunities, and unless we do so, the inequalities that distort our society will continue to destroy to destroy the chances of so many young people. It’s time to open the doors of opportunity,” he said.

UNICEF Innocenti’s Director, a.i., Priscilla Idele, opened the event stressing why it’s important to address educational inequalities for children. “The children of today are the parents of tomorrow. If we can tackle inequalities now we can also increase the potential of children of the future,” she said.

Report authors Kat Chzhen, Anna Gromada, and Gwyther Rees presented the key findings of the report, with a focus on sources of educational inequalities, and findings for each stage of education: preschool, primary school, and secondary school. View their presentation here: https://www.slideshare.net/UNICEFIRC/an-unfair-start-inequality-in-childrens-education-in-rich-countries

Following the authors’ presentation, Sarah Crowe, Chief of Communication, a.i., at UNICEF Innocenti, moderated a panel of academic researchers and experts on childcare, social policy and education, including Alissa Goodman, Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at University College London; Kitty Stewart, Associate Professor of Social Policy and Associate Director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at London School of Economics; and Jan Vandemoortele, an independent expert and member of the Report Card 15 advisory board. The panel discussed the significance of the research findings and implications for policy decisions.

Two education experts also joined the launch via video message: Jane Waldfogel, from Columbia University and Yuri Belfali from the OECD Education Division. Both offered insights from the report. Waldfogel chose to emphasize the finding on tracking and streaming in schools and between schools as a policy that increases inequalities: “School level policies like tracking can amplify inequality, while a focus on making sure that every child is able to learn to a good level can reduce inequality,” she said.  Yuri Belfali stressed the importance of good data, as the Report Card uses OECD PISA data reading to measure education inequalities within and between countries. Yuri noted that the OECD plans to provide more robust data in the future. It is so fundamental that we continue building the evidence base needed to support reforms that promote equity in education and through education…We need all the insights we can get if we are to meet the SDG goals and targets,” Belfali said.

A second panel engaged in a powerful discussion on personal educational experience from a student and teacher perspectives. This panel included two students included Gianmario Cosentino, a student from Como, Italy, working with UNICEF as a volunteer; and Minahil Sarfraz, a UNICEF Ireland Youth Ambassador and refuge from Pakistan; as well as Fionnoula MacAonghusa, a teacher and an expert on educational policies working with students in Ireland; and Marco Rossi Doria, an educational policies expert and a former teacher and undersecretary for education in the Italian Government.

Sarfraz, 17, spoke about the important role parents and teachers have to play in making sure children don’t give up on school so that they get a fair start in life.

UNICEF Innocenti's Report Card 15, An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries, presents a comprehensive assessment of current levels of inequalities of educational opportunity in rich countries, using the best and most up-to-date data available. It also discusses what can be done to reduce these inequalities.  Produced by UNICEF Innocenti, the report establishes a point of departure for reviewing progress towards minimising educational inequality for children in rich countries. It compares 41 countries of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report shows that a high level of educational inequality is not inevitable: some of these countries do much better than others. Social policies matter: children from disadvantaged families are much more likely to fall behind, but the gaps are smaller in some countries than others. Schools and education systems matter: children tend to do worse in schools where bullying is more prevalent; children tend to do better in school later on in life if they start education early; children tend to do better when they are in a more socially integrated school environment in other words segregation at school doesn’t led to the best educational outcomes for all children – not for the worst off or the best off.  

UNICEF Innocenti’s Report Card 15: An Unfair Start is available to download on our dedicated page where you can learn more about the research findings and recommendations:  www.unicef-irc.org/unfairstart




Report Card 15: An Unfair Start is available to download here and on our dedicated page where you can learn more about the research findings:  www.unicef-irc.org/unfairstart

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