Education and Inequality


Educational inequality is the unequal distribution of academic resources, including but not limited to; school funding, qualified and experienced teachers, books, and technologies to socially excluded communities. These communities tend to be historically disadvantaged and oppressed. Individuals belonging to these marginalized groups are often denied access to schools with adequate resources. Inequality leads to major differences in the educational success or efficiency of these individuals and ultimately suppresses social and economic mobility.

There are some key areas where structural inequalities in educational outcomes can be expected. An example is the process of socialization. How girls and boys are socialized differently from one another can impact upon their educational outcomes in terms of their confidence, performance, and interests. There are many factors that can impact on how well a child does in school and whether he or she pursues post-secondary education. Many of these different factors—but certainly not all.

Many characteristics people have that can impact on the opportunities they have in life (or their life chances) can be divided into ascribed and achieved characteristics. Ascribed characteristics are those features of individuals with which they are born, such as race, sex, and the social class of one’s family. Achieved characteristics, in contrast, are earned or chosen through individual effort, like personal skills and occupational designations. Most life chances are influenced by a combination of ascribed and achieved characteristics. For example, earning a doctorate requires a lot of effort on the part of the individual, but people from middle- and upper-class families are more likely to pursue post-graduate degrees. In this chapter, however, the focus is on ascribed characteristics.


Gender is a major contributing factor to socialization. The outperformance of boys by girls on recent standardized reading tests was also discussed, which suggests that gender is no longer a barrier to educational achievement for girls—although debates have arisen as to whether the school environment has become feminized to match the learning styles of girls, leaving boys at a disadvantage.

Male disadvantage

In 51 countries, girls are enrolled at higher rates than boys. Particularly in Latin America, the difference is attributed to the prominence of gangs and violence attracting male youth. The gangs pull the males in, distracting them from school and causing them to drop out.In some countries, female high school and graduation rates are higher than for males. In the United States for example, 33% more bachelor’s degrees were conferred on females than males in 2010–2011.This gap is projected to increase to 37% by 2021–2022 and is over 50% for masters and associate degrees. Dropout rates for males have also increased over the years in all racial groups, especially in African Americans. They have exceeded the number of high schools and college dropout rates than any other racial ethnicity for the past 30 years. A majority of the research found that males were primarily the most “left behind” in education because of higher graduation dropout rates, lower test scores, and failing grades. They found that as males get older, primarily from ages 9 to 17, they are less likely to be labeled “proficient” in reading and mathematics than girls were.In general, males arrive in kindergarten much less ready and prepared for schooling than females. This creates a gap that continually increases over time into middle and high school.

In Asia, males are expected to be the main financial contributor of the family. So many of them go to work right after they become adults physically, which means at the age of around 15 to 17. This is the age they should obtain a high school education.Males get worse grades than females do regardless of year or country examined in most subjects.

It has also been suggested that teacher bias in grading may account for up to 21% of the male deficit in grades.One study found that male disadvantage in education is independent of inequality in social and economic participation.

Female disadvantage

Obstacles preventing females’ ability to receive a quality education include traditional attitudes towards gender roles, poverty, geographical isolation, gender-based violence, and early marriage and pregnancy.Throughout the world, there is an estimated 7 million more girls than boys out of school. This “girls gap” is concentrated in several countries including Somalia, Afghanistan, Togo, the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, girls are outnumbered two to one.

Early marriage affects females’ ability to receive an education.”The gap separating men and women in the job market remains wide in many countries, whether in the North or the South. With marginal variables between most countries, women have a lower employment rate, are unemployed longer, are paid less, and have less secure jobs.Young women, particularly suffer double discrimination. First for being young, in the difficult phase of transition between training and working life, in an age group that has, on an average, twice the jobless rate or older workers and are at the mercy of employers who exploit them under the pretext of enabling them to acquire professional experience. Secondly, they are discriminated against for being women and are more likely to be offered low paying or low-status jobs.Discrimination is still very much in evidence and education and training policies especially targeting young women are needed to restore a balance. Although young women are increasingly choosing typically ‘male’ professions, they remain over-represented in traditionally female jobs, such as secretaries, nurses, and underrepresented in jobs with responsibility and the professions.


There are a variety of efforts by countries to assist in increasing the availability of quality education for all children.

Education for All Act

The Education For All act or EFA is a global commitment to provide quality basic education for all children, youth, and adults. In 2000, 164 governments pledged to achieve education for all at the World Education Forum. There are six decided-upon goals designed to reach the goal of Education for All by 2015. The entities working together to achieve these goals include governments, multilateral and development agencies, civil society, and the private sector. UNESCO is responsible for coordinating the partnerships. Although progress has been made, some countries are providing more support than others. Also, there is a need to strengthen overall political commitment as well as strengthening the needed resources.

Massive online classes

There is a growing shift away from traditional higher education institutions to massive open online courses (MOOC). These classes are run through content sharing, videos, online forums, and exams. The MOOCs are free which allows for many more students to take part in the classes, however, the programs are created by global north countries, therefore inhibiting individuals in the global south from creating their own innovations

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