Educational inequalities in developing countries are typically very high (higher than income inequalities in some cases), but average performance levels are very low (striking examples include South Africa and India). OECD evidence tends to suggest that educationally high performing countries on average are those with lower levels of inequality, i.e., higher average learning levels are associated with lower inequality in learning levels. But whether higher average learning levels are most readily reached specifically by reducing inequalities; or whether reduced inequalities are the likely result of more general efforts to raise learning outcomes, is an important empirical question. We consider the potential benefits of a path ‘through the middle’ whereby attention to the long (‘left hand’) tail of poor performing students and schools may serve both to improve outcomes as a whole and to reduce inequality; thereby serving 2 equity goals.
Raising achievement across what is, in many countries, a ‘long tail of poorly performing pupils and schools’, may be an efficient strategy for raising learning outcomes as a whole. While it is an empirical question whether this is feasible, or is in fact what successful countries tend to do, it would by almost any standard be an equitable thing to do.
This work is part of the Department for International Development’s ‘Research on Improving Systems of Education’ (RISE) Programme
Crouch, L.; Rolleston, C. Raising the Floor on Learning Levels: Equitable Improvement Starts with the Tail. Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) Insights