Advocating for equality among schools? Resources matter

by Rose Bolognini
Communications and Publications Co-ordinator, Directorate for Education and Skills

Disadvantaged students don’t have as many resources at home as their advantaged peers so ideally schools would need to compensate by providing more support. However, often schools reinforce social disparities rather than moderate them. The latest PISA in Focus brief  reveals that students in socio-economically disadvantaged schools are less exposed to learning environments and educational resources that matter most for science performance.

In fact, the latest round of PISA is telling. In 50 of the 72 countries and economies that participated, advantaged schools have more access to educational resources specific to science classes. And PISA finds that students perform better in science when schools have qualified science teachers, and high-quality laboratory and other materials for hands-on activities in science classes.

What’s more, disadvantaged students benefit more from being exposed to extracurricular activities than advantaged students. But yet among the majority of countries that took the PISA test, the range of learning opportunities beyond regular classes is much narrower in disadvantaged schools.  Disadvantaged students taking the PISA test reported that the schools they attend don’t offer options such as science competitions and clubs, sports, music and arts activities.

The latest PISA in Focus explores this topic in greater detail showing that allocating resources more equitably across schools is an indispensable first step if schools are to compensate for inequalities in family background. But there are other measures policy makers and school leaders can take to promote equity. Among others – ensuring access to various educational resources, and the capacity of school staff to make the best use of those resources, is one way for schools to help students. These measures are imperative because PISA continuously shows that school systems already combining high performance and equity demonstrate that it is possible to offer high-quality education opportunities to all students.

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