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Gwyther Rees

Consultant

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Gwyther Rees joined UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in October 2017. He is working on the Report Card series on child well-being in rich countries. Gwyther is also currently an Associate Research Fellow at the University of York where he is Research Director for Children’s Worlds ¬– an international survey of children’s lives and well-being. He has a PhD (Social Sciences) from Cardiff University. Prior to his current roles, Gwyther was Research Director at The Children’s Society – an NGO in England – where his research focused on child protection and children’s subjective well-being
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PUBLICATIONS

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.

There is growing recognition among international organizations, scholars and policymakers that education systems must produce equitable outcomes, but there is far less consensus on what this means in practice. This paper analyses differences in inequality of outcome and inequality of opportunity in educational achievement among primary and secondary schoolchildren across 38 countries of the European Union (EU) and/or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The analysis focuses on reading achievement, drawing on data from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). We use several measures to operationalize the two concepts of inequality in education. Our results show that inequality of outcome does not necessarily go hand in hand with inequality of opportunity. These two concepts lead to measures that produce very different country rankings. We argue that information on both inequality of outcome and inequality of opportunity is necessary for a better understanding of equity in children’s education.

PODCASTS

Uncovering An #UnfairStart: An Interview with UNICEF Report Card 15 authors on Education Inequality

Uncovering An #UnfairStart: An Interview with UNICEF Report Card 15 authors on Education Inequality

PROJECTS

Children in high income countries

In-depth analysis of the latest comparable data on the well-being of children in high income countries.