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Inequality of opportunity in educational performance in Spain and Europe

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Inequality of opportunity in educational performance in Spain and Europe

Gabriela Sicilia, ULL; Gustavo A. Marrero, ULL; Juan C. Palomino, University of Oxford;
Project selected in the Call to support research projects on social inequality (LL2020_5)

Inequality of opportunity in educational performance measures the importance that factors beyond the responsibility of the student (gender, background, financial and cultural status of parents, etc.) play in academic performance differences. By using the most recent PISA data, this study estimates that non-student factors explain 32% of the differences in academic performance in the EU-27 and that these effects are channelled through grade repetition, student motivation and their reading habits and skills.
Key points
  • 1
       Spain, together with the Nordic countries, has lower inequality of educational opportunity (some 20%), while Central European countries present higher inequality (between 38% and 45%).
  • 2
       There is no link between inequality and educational performance. Unlike Mediterranean countries, the Nordic and Anglosphere countries have low inequality of educational opportunity but also high academic performance.
  • 3
       Differences in home cultural backgrounds are the most important contributors to inequality of opportunity in educational performance in Europe: some 40% on average for the EU-27. School characteristics are relevant in Central European countries, Italy, Greece and the UK (between 20% and 40%).
  • 4
       Grade repetition, motivation (educational and occupational expectations), reading skills and pleasure in reading account for 11-30% of this inequality.
  • 5
       There is slight diversity in relation to inequality of educational opportunity among Spanish regions (ranging from 16% to 27%), with the home cultural backgrounds as the aspect contributing most to this inequality in all of them.
  • 6
       The main channel through which socio- economic and cultural circumstances operate in Spanish regions is that of grade repetition, except in Catalonia, Andalusia and the Balearic Islands, where the most important factor is the student’s educational expectations.
Grade repetition channels almost 50% of inequality of opportunity in educational performance in Spanish regions
Grade repetition channels almost 50% of inequality of opportunity in educational performance in Spanish regions

Contribution of potential channels to inequality of educational opportunity in Spain.

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