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Poor children are ‘failed by system’ on road to higher education in lower-income countries

A generation of talented but disadvantaged children are being denied access to higher education because academic success in lower and middle-income countries is continually ‘protected by wealth’, a study has found.

The research, which used data from around 3,500 young people in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam, shows that promising but poorer students ‘fall away’ during their school years, as challenges associated with their socio-economic circumstances gradually erode their potential. Among children who showed similar levels of ability aged 8, for example, the wealthiest were often over 30 percentage points more likely than the least-wealthy to enter all forms of tertiary education: including university, technical colleges, and teacher training.

Even when they focused only on students who complete secondary school with comparable levels of learning, the researchers found that those from wealthier backgrounds were still more likely to progress to higher education. They describe their findings, reported in the British Education Research Journal , as indicative of the ‘protective effect’ of wealth in relation to academic advantage.

The study was undertaken by the Research in Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Dr Sonia Ilie, its lead author, said: “In many lower-income countries, low socio-economic status is […]

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