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Equity in Education

Breaking Down Barriers to Social Mobility

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In times of growing economic inequality, improving equity in education becomes more urgent. While some countries and economies that participate in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) have managed to build education systems where socio-economic status makes less of a difference to students’ learning and well-being, every country can do more.

Equity in Education: Breaking Down Barriers to Social Mobility shows that high performance and more positive attitudes towards schooling among disadvantaged 15-year-old students are strong predictors of success in higher education and work later on. The report examines how equity in education has evolved over several cycles of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). It identifies the policies and practices that can help disadvantaged students succeed academically and feel more engaged at school.

Using longitudinal data from five countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, and the United States), the report also describes the links between a student’s performance near the end of compulsory education and upward social mobility – i.e. attaining a higher level of education or working in a higher-status job than one’s parents.

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Technical notes on analyses in this report

PISA datasets are the main source of data used in this report. However, in some chapters, additional sources of data are used. Data from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (OECD, 2016[1]) are used in ; data from the Barro-Lee Educational Attainment Dataset (Barro and Lee, 2013[2]) are used in ; and data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) (IEA, 1997[3]) are also used in . Additionally, uses longitudinal data accessed by the OECD Secretariat, in its raw form or through collaboration with national researchers, from five countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland and the United States. For a detailed description of the longitudinal data used in , see .

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