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Educational Opportunity for All

Overcoming Inequality throughout the Life Course

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Equitable educational opportunities can help to promote long-lasting, inclusive economic growth and social cohesion. Successful education and skills policies can empower individuals to reach their full potential and enjoy the fruits of their labour, regardless of their circumstances at birth. However, as this report shows, far too many children, students and adults from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds fall behind. In many countries, substantial learning gaps exist between students at opposite ends of the socio-economic scale, and these differences tend to increase in the transition into adulthood.

All countries have ample room for improvement to ensure better learning outcomes for all. Early childhood education has been identified as an important element in future success, and requires investment, as do family and community-based support and programmes for children from families that have not attained a high level of education and skills. In the schools, targeted support is necessary for low performers from disadvantaged backgrounds and for poorly performing schools. As for the adult population, learning should be focused on improving employability, through a combination of education and practical job training. Barriers to participation in learning need to be removed, and delivery methods need to be more innovative and flexible. Targeted support is needed for the most vulnerable members of society.

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Provide second learning chances for adults

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation

Failed interventions and investments in early childhood and schooling can result in serious consequences that are harder to resolve in adulthood. Individuals who have left the education system are harder to reach, and adult learning and training is generally much less available and less generously funded than formal education for young children and students. This chapter discusses inequality in outcomes in education, skills and labour market participation during adulthood, as well as the gaps between various groups of the population in participation in formal and non-formal adult education and training. It also discusses policy interventions that can mitigate inequality in learning and labour market outcomes between adults from socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds. First of all, learning should be focused on improving the employability of adults, through a combination of education and training and practical job training. Targeted support needs to be provided to adults with a low level of educational attainment and without basic literacy and numeracy skills. Particular attention should be paid to young adults who are not in employment or in education (NEETs), single mothers and women who have had to leave the labour market due to child care responsibilities, as well as the immigrant population. Barriers to participation in adult education need to be removed through financing mechanisms such as co-financing, tax credit and allowances. To tackle situational and time constraints, delivery methods need to be more innovative and flexible.

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