Not if you are a ‘ resilient’ student, according to the OECD


There is an on-going debate about the effects of poverty and social disadvantage on educational opportunities and outcomes. One “side” of the debate holds a deterministic view. claiming   that poverty is destiny in regard to educational outcomes. You can actually predict a child’s educational performance from very early on, as young as five, perhaps even earlier.   The other “side” is accused of either ignoring or not giving sufficient weight to the detrimental effects of poverty, emphasising the quality of teaching , the impact of good schools on outcomes  and of arguing that market-based reforms can  pretty much transform our public education system, if given a chance.  A new interpretation of OECD data seems to support the view that poverty and social disadvantage do not mean that you are automatically destined to underachieve at school.  A significant percentage of disadvantaged pupils can, and  often do  defy the odds against them succeeding at school. 

The OECD asks the question ‘Are socio-economically disadvantaged students condemned to perpetuate an intergenerational cycle of poor academic achievement, poor job prospects and poverty?  The answer is no they are not,  if that is these  students attend schools that provide them with more regular classes.  The OECD talks of ‘resilient’ students. Resilient students come from a disadvantaged socio-economic background, relative to students in their country, and attain high scores by international standards. To make comparisons between countries meaningful, the overall relationship between background and performance, as well as the student’s own background, are taken into consideration.

These so called resilient students in the 2006 and 2009 PISA surveys displayed high levels of academic achievement, despite the fact that they came from disadvantaged, backgrounds. They beat the odds stacked against them to outperform peers from the same socio-economic background and they are ranked among the top quarter of students internationally.

In PISA 2009, nearly one-third of disadvantaged students across OECD countries were identified as “resilient”. In fact, the majority of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Korea and the partner economies Hong Kong-China, Macao-China and Shanghai-China were considered resilient. Over 35% of disadvantaged students in Canada, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the partner countries Liechtenstein and Singapore and the partner economy Chinese Taipei were also resilient. One key ingredient associated with resilience is spending more time in class. Analysis of PISA 2006 results found that many disadvantaged students spend less time studying science in school than their more advantaged peers. While relatively advantaged students spend more than three hours a week in regular science classes, disadvantaged students spend about two-and-a-half hours a week.

Among disadvantaged students, learning time in school is one of the strongest predictors of which students will outperform their peers. In practically all OECD countries, and all partner countries and economies, the average resilient student spends more time studying science at school – on average, between one and two more hours per week – than the average disadvantaged low-achiever.

So the OECDs conclusion is that ‘Disadvantaged students  can, and often do,  defy the odds  against them when given the opportunity to do so. This includes offering these  students equal opportunities to learn, and fostering their self-confidence and  motivation so that they can exploit their potential’.

Source Pisa Focus



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