Children from poorer households in India consistently experience educational disadvantages as compared to their wealthier peers, say researchers, adding that the girls are more adversely affected than boys.
The research team from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the University of Birmingham in the UK, said their findings highlight the limitations of the current education policy and called for more comprehensive reform.
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“Despite recent policy reforms in boosting enrolment rates and improving access to education, there are still substantial gender- and wealth-driven disparities affecting the educational progression of young children in India,” said study researcher Nicholas Vasilakos from UEA.
For the findings, published in the British Educational Research Journal, the research team used data from the ‘Young Lives’ longitudinal survey to analyse the effect of socioeconomic conditions and gender on the educational performance of young children in India.
Data was drawn from standardised scores on two cognitive tests: the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) and a maths test, and the researchers looked at results from 951 children from the regions of Andhra Pradesh, Rayalaseema and Telangana.The results showed that children from wealthier households consistently outperform their less-affluent peers.
According to the researchers, there are also significant gender differences in the way household wealth affects the educational performance of children. Specifically, boys born into wealthier households perform considerably better in maths than those from worse-off economic backgrounds.
The effect of wealth on the PPVT – which measures verbal ability and general cognitive development – is stronger for girls than it is for boys, the study said.
“We also find that high caregiver aspirations are positively and significantly associated with better performance in math, for boys but not for girls,” the study authors wrote.
Children from wealthier households have fewer constraints – such as the cost of books, school fees or uniforms – and no need to work for income or perform household chores, as their less-affluent peers often must.
Additionally, children from poorer households may only have access to substandard schools and resources, and less parental support with their education.
The researchers noted that these kids are also more susceptible to adverse economic shocks, which may in turn force parents to make choices about which child to send to school or indeed, to choose between work and education. (IANS)