While we might deny it, school is most likely not our favorite place to be every single day. For some, it is because of the early mornings. For others, it is because of the loads of homework. However, many do not realize the importance that school, even with all of its “drawbacks”, carries for underprivileged communities around the world. When it comes to children of primary education age, more than 72 million are not in school. Further, 759 million adults are illiterate and do not have the awareness necessary to improve both the living conditions of them and their children. As a result, families in underprivileged communities continue to face an unbreakable cycle of education inequality that seems to not end.
Areas Affected by Education Inequality
Compared to developed countries, developing countries seem to be at a greater loss when it comes to education inequality. For example, in Europe and North America, the percentage of children out of school is 3%. However, the proportion is much larger in developing countries. For example, sub-Saharan Africa is at 31%, and Central Asia is at 21%.
It should be noted that the lack of schooling and poor education only continues to further harm the populations and countries affected by education inequality. As these children leave school to enter the workforce with an education that does not cover the required basics, the social and economic development of countries is greatly hindered.
Causes of Education Inequality
Often, a variety of factors play into education inequality in underprivileged communities. To name a few, poverty, racism, and inadequate funding for schools in low-income areas all can affect the ability of people to receive a quality education.
When it comes to poverty, students in poverty will mostly attend underfunded schools. Hence, these schools will have fewer resources to support students who are struggling or showing signs of learning disabilities. At home, these students might not be getting homework done because they lack resources or a safe, quiet place to study. As a result of an unstable environment, children in poverty are unable to get a quality education at school or home, hurting their chances of breaking the cycle of education inequality.
When it comes to racism, as seen throughout history, unequal opportunity can fuel education inequality. Up until as late as the 1960s, most African-American, Latino, and Native American students were educated in segregated schools with varying resources since they were funded at much lower rates than those of schools for white people. Hence, there were significant gaps in achievement on national tests. This gap has narrowed substantially since the end of legal segregation and efforts were put forth to equalize spending, however, to this day, minority students continue to face differing educational experiences. For example, two-thirds of minority students still attend schools that are predominantly minority in areas that are underfunded.
Working to Solve Education Inequality
As we continue to see education inequality harm underprivileged communities around the world, it begs the question. How can we work to solve this problem?
Firstly, it should be ensured that students in schools have high-quality teachers. While this might not be frequently noticed, teacher quality is a defining factor in student success. Children in low-income areas are often taught by less experienced and less effective teachers, diminishing the quality of their education. To address this issue, policymakers need to invest in teacher training and professional development to improve the quality of education received by children.
Similarly, providing adequate resources and funding to schools in low-income areas allows them to invest in the needed resources for a high-quality education. For example, students in low-income areas often lack up-to-date textbooks, technology, and well-equipped classrooms. To address this issue, policymakers must ensure that funding is fairly distributed, so schools in low-income areas receive the necessary funds to provide students with a quality education.
However, when working to solve education inequality, it is also important to address the roots of this problem in some underprivileged areas: poverty and racism. For addressing poverty and racism, broader social and economic policies might be needed to have a larger impact. For example, by increasing access to affordable housing, healthcare, and job opportunities, you can improve the lifestyle of a community, a factor that greatly affects how someone learns.
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