illustration for Domain 3 Education and learning

Education and learning: Inequality in the capability to be knowledgeable, to understand and reason, and to have the skills to participate in society


Description

The capability to be knowledgeable, to understand and reason, and to have the skills to participate in society is a critical life domain. The capability to function as a knowledgeable learner is both important in its own right but also contributes to the expansion and equality of capabilities in other spheres of life. This domain covers inequalities in education capabilities over the life-course, combining measures of low levels of educational attainment with measures of high attainment and unequal access to elite education opportunities. The domain also includes measures of critical thinking, awareness of rights and treatment within learning establishments.

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The capability approach motivates us to look beyond simple human capital style measures of education outcomes as it recognises that knowledge bestows a range of non-pecuniary benefits. For example, a year of schooling is a problematic unit for measuring education, as it does not reflect the quality or content of what was learnt in that year (Ferreira and Gignoux, 2013). This domain also captures outcomes which reflect the extent to which individuals are fulfilled and stimulated intellectually, including being creative. Expanding educational capability can enhance the quality of life for individuals by enabling them to participate in activities such as reading a book or enjoying an art exhibition, which brings ‘intrinsic pleasure’ (OECD, 2011).

This domain covers inequalities in education capabilities over the life-course, from early development through to adulthood, through proxy measures of participation, access and attainment (achieved functionings) and knowledge. The domain includes measures of basic skills and low levels of educational attainment (including lack of educational qualifications) but also measures of high attainment, unequal access to elite education opportunities, and information and communication technology skills.

The domain covers the preparedness of young children set to enter the formal education system to measure differences between children in terms of their position to benefit fully and equally from formal schooling. Research has affirmed the significance of early childhood development for future health, behaviour and learning (Shonkoff and Ricther, 2013). The early years are critical as the brain develops most rapidly in the first few years of a child’s life. Nurturing care, as well as adequate nutrition and a safe environment, are all necessary elements that allow for healthy cognitive development, and contribute to the school readiness of young children.

The unequal treatment of pupils within schools, including bullying from other children and ill treatment by teachers can be important determinants of education outcomes and such experiences can have a long term negative impact on attitudes to learning and outcomes in adulthood (Wolke and Lereya, 2015). The domain also looks beyond schooling to include lifelong learning and knowledge required to participate in society; including technological skills; skills related to accessing information held on the internet and the skills to distinguish between information of differing quality.

The capability approach recognises human diversity both in terms of resources (this may be innate ability) and in terms of diversity in tastes and preferences, and individual choice (Sen, 1992). It is important to understand education and learning inequalities which are driven by differences in the ability of individuals to convert resources into outcomes rather than simply looking at inequalities in outcomes.

Autonomy to choose (agency) is more complex in this than in many other domains as parents typically make choices on behalf of their children. As Walker (2006) notes, education plays a critical role in the development of adult capabilities across a number of spheres. This therefore provides some conflict between valuing children’s freedom to choose whether or not to attend school and the freedoms they will have in their adult lives; a child may, given the choice, decide not to attend school without fully comprehending that this will reduce their opportunities in adult life and lead to restricted future individual freedoms and agency. Furthermore, improving education within society also facilitates greater democracy and enables disadvantaged groups to 'increase their ability to resist inequalities and get a fairer deal in and through education' (Vaughan and Walker, 2012).

References and selected readings

Antoninis, M., Delprato, M. and Benavot, A. (2016) ‘Inequality in education: the challenge of measurement’ in ISSC, IDS and UNESCO, World Social Science Report 2016, Challenging Inequalities: Pathways to a Just World, UNESCO Publishing, Paris

Ferreira, F.H.G., and Gignoux, J. (2013). ‘The Measurement of Educational Inequality: Achievement and Opportunity’, The World Bank Economic Review, 28 (2) 210-246. DOI: 10.1093/wber/lht004

ISCED (2011). International Standard Classification of Education 2011, Canada: UNESCO Institute for Statistics

OECD (2011). Education at a Glance 2011, Paris: OECD

Shonkoff, J. P. and Ricther, L. (2013) The powerful reach of early childhood development: a science-based foundation for sound investment. In Britto PR, Engle PL, Super CS (eds.) Handbook of Early Childhood Development Research and its Impact on Global Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1-23

Vaughan, R., and Walker, M. (2012). ‘Capabilities, values and education policy’, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 13 (3) pp. 495-512

Walker, M. (2006). ‘Towards a capability-based theory of social justice for education policy-making’, Journal of Education Policy, 21, 2, pp. 163-185

Wolff, J. and De-Shalit, A. (2007). Disadvantage, New York: Oxford University Press

Wolke, D., and Lereya, S. T. (2015). ‘Long-term effects of bullying’, Archives of Disease in Childhood, 100(9), 879–885. DOI: 10.1136/archdischild-2014-306667


Measurement considerations

Inequalities in this domain include differences in attainment between groups - age, gender, ethnicity, religion, indigenous people, children in vulnerable situations – as well as family background. Inequality is also assessed through measures of overall inequality in educational attainment, ordinal inequality measures based on highest level of educational attainment and evidence of elitism.

 

Click on the button beside each sub-domain to see related indicators, inequality measures and references to any relevant UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators. You may click on the Expand All button to view all inequality indicators, their measures and SDG indicators within each of the sub-domains.

 

Sub-domains:
Attain the highest possible standard of knowledge, understanding and reasoning through access to education, training and lifelong learning that meets individual needs
Indicator:
Basic skills
     Measures:

Percentage of people of working age achieving functional literacy and numeracy skills

Reference: UN SDG:
4.6.1

Proportion of population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills, by sex

Inequality in maths and reading skills (measured by age 15)

Reference: UN SDG:
4.1.1

Proportion of children and young people (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex

Percentage of children under 5 years of age who are developmentally on track in learning

Reference: UN SDG:
4.2.1

Proportion of children under 5 years of age who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being, by sex


Indicator:
Educational attainment and schooling
     Measures:

Percentage of each age group completing: (a) primary education; (b) secondary education; (c) further education or youth training; (d) higher education

Inequality in educational attainment (ISCED 2011 0-8 levels) for population aged 25+ years (years of schooling if attainment is missing)

Reference: UN SDG:
4.5.1

Parity indices (female/male, rural/urban, bottom/top wealth quintile and others such as disability status, indigenous peoples and conflict-affected, as data become available) for all education indicators on this list that can be disaggregated

Educational attainment by family background

Reference: UN SDG:
4.5.1

Parity indices (female/male, rural/urban, bottom/top wealth quintile and others such as disability status, indigenous peoples and conflict-affected, as data become available) for all education indicators on this list that can be disaggregated

Percentage of 16-18 year olds not in education, employment or training

Reference: UN SDG:
8.6.1

Proportion of youth (aged 15-24 years) not in education, employment or training


Indicator:
Participation in lifelong learning
     Measures:

Percentage of population aged 25+ years who have participated in formal or informal learning in last 12 months

Reference: UN SDG:
4.3.1

Participation rate of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education and training in the previous 12 months, by sex


Evidence of financial constraints limiting attainment and unequal access to elite education opportunities
Indicator:
Evidence of education elitism
     Measures:

Percentage of young people unable to pursue further or higher education due to financial constraints

Percentage of secondary school population attending private fee paying schools

Evidence of unequal access to prestigious education institutions due to discriminatory admissions procedures by gender, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status


Access information and technology necessary to participate in society
Indicator:
Use of the internet and technology
     Measures:

Percentage of population who have used the internet for any purpose within the last 3 months by age

Reference: UN SDG:
17.6.2

Fixed Internet broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, by speed

17.8.1

Proportion of individuals using the Internet

Percentage of youth and adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills, by type of skill

Reference: UN SDG:
4.4.1

Proportion of youth and adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills, by type of skill


Develop critical thinking, active and global citizenship, knowledge and understanding of human rights
Indicator:
Critical thinking and awareness of rights
     Measures:

Percentage who have knowledge and understanding of human rights and consumer rights etc. (a) through inclusion on school curriculum; (b) through campaigns, literature and public events

Reference: UN SDG:
4.7.1

Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development, including gender equality and human rights, are mainstreamed at all levels in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment


Be treated with dignity and respect in education and learning establishments
Indicator:
Treatment in education and learning establishments
     Measures:

Percentage of those attending who say they are: (a) treated with respect at school or college; (b) have experienced bullying or violence at an educational establishment