Equity in Education

Sophie Bisset

26 September 2016

Case Studies


The Research Base is currently undertaking a series of country case studies on equitable access to quality education for school-aged children. These case studies focus in particular on equity in education for the most disadvantaged children, for whom the provision of quality education has the potential to promote social inclusion, produce long-term systemic change and provide wider socioeconomic benefits.

Access to a quality, basic education has long formed one of the main pillars of the international development agenda. The establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) helped to bring about a global commitment to achieving universal access to basic education, together with a focus on gender parity in rates of primary school enrolment for girls and boys. By 2015, the net enrolment rate for primary-aged children reached 91% with gender parity targets successfully met across developing regions.1

The introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) marks renewed efforts to improve equity in education by retraining the focus to reach the most disadvantaged children, including young people with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and those living in vulnerable conditions, such as conflict zones. The SDGs have also record learning outcomes alongside attendance rates to ensure that children completing basic schooling have received a quality education.2

The emphasis on improving equity also reflect the broader concern with fairness in education, rather than simple equality in availability and distribution of resources. There are many many ways that different countries approach the question of equitable access for marginalised groups: for example, cash transfer systems are a popular mechanism to encourage sustainable attendance rates in Latin American countries, while almost all countries recognise the importance of funding transport, schoolbooks and other basic resources to enable the poorest children to attend school.

Case Studies

Each country case study explores (i) factors that may prevent the most marginalised children from accessing educational opportunities, and (ii) government policies, international development interventions and community-based initiatives designed to remove these barriers and improve equitable access to sustainable, high quality educational opportunities.

Critical factors that may affect children’s ability to access basic education include gender, disability, poverty, the rural/urban divide and the living in a conflict zone. For many school-aged children, multiple disadvantage further compounds difficulties in accessing quality education. The analysis presented within individual case studies looks closely at specific factors in response to each country’s current education profile.

In Argentina, almost all children complete primary education, many of whom achieve basic literacy. There is a significant minority of school aged children who experience significant barriers to accessing education: in particular, children from rural areas, and children from migrant and indigenous communities. Analysis of recent policy and NGO initiatives suggests that high levels of connectivity across the country mean that ICT is seen as a key tool for improving educational opportunities for marginalised young people.

In Brazil, the education sector has undergone radical transformation in recent years, with cash transfers supporting improved attendance rates for students from the poorest quintile. Evidence also suggests that a comprehensive system to monitor learning outcomes have also had a positive impact on the quality of education provision. Despite recent policy initiatives, the impact of ethnicity, especially for the poorest students, continues to systematic impact on levels of exclusion and discrimination within the education system. Likewise, efforts at national level to improve equitable access for children with disabilities have led to some progress but significant challenges remain in this area.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the government and international partner organisation are working to ameliorate the impact of two decades of armed conflict within the country. A series of national and NGO initiatives, for example, have been delivered in recent years in response to the multiple disadvantage experienced by girls from the poorest quintile and/or those living in rural areas. While improvements have been recorded in regions under government control, ongoing conflict in the Eastern regions continues to disrupt access to education for many children. NGO activity has sought to provide some level of basic education to children in these conflict areas.

In Libya, the recent years of conflict have had a serious impact on access to education for children across the country. The destruction of basic infrastructure during the height of the conflict has hampered efforts to re-establish basic education provision during periods of relative stability. Despite these challenges, many children are reported to be in-school under the current transitional government, and a number of initiatives led by NGOs are seeking to address to the lasting social and psychological impact of war on young people living through the conflict.



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