Gender- and wealth-driven disparities affecting children’s school performance in India

Published by  News Archive

On 10th Jul 2020

children in school uniform in India

University of East Anglia led research reveals that gender and wealth-driven disparities continue to negatively impact Indian children’s educational outcomes, despite recent government policy reforms.

According to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA), children from poorer households consistently experience educational disadvantages compared to their wealthier peers, and girls are more adversely affected than boys. Researchers from UEA and the University of Birmingham, which partnered on the project, said their findings highlight the limitations of the current education policy and called for more comprehensive reform.

Their report, ‘Picking winners: An empirical analysis of the determinants of educational outcomes in India’, is published today in the British Educational Research Journal.

The research was conducted jointly by Dr Nicholas Vasilakos, a lecturer in International Business in the Norwich Business School at UEA and Dr Christian Darko, a lecturer in Applied Business and Labour Economics at the Birmingham Business School of the University of Birmingham.

The project 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.

Dr Vasilakos said: “India has undergone a period of rapid modernisation across all areas of social and economic activity – including education.

“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.

“Our results show that children from wealthier households consistently outperform their less-affluent peers.

“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.

“We also find that high caregiver aspirations are positively and significantly associated with better performance in math, for boys but not for girls.”

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. They 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 an education.

Dr Vasilakos and his colleague at Birmingham, Dr Christian Darko, said the importance of early life education is a determinant of later-life success. Moreover, additional policy reforms need to consider gender differences in access to education as well as employment opportunities, and tackle issues related to gender bias both in schools and the workplace.

Dr Vasilakos said: “Educational policy reforms may not be able to fully achieve their objectives, unless they are accompanied by economic policies that address issues of inequity and inequality.  

“Such policies should aim to economically empower poorer households to reap the benefits of educational reforms by making them less reliant on their children’s income for survival, whilst improving schooling quality, especially in areas where children from poorer households are likely to be over-represented.

“Until these changes happen, India will be limiting its economic and developmental potential.”

Picking winners: An empirical analysis of the determinants of educational outcomes in India’, is published 10 July 2020 in the British Educational Research Journal.

Study Business at UEA

More world-leading research

Latest News

Woman at her desk holding the nape of her neck
24 Sep 2020

Lockdown impact: worsening symptoms for people with bone, joint and muscle pain

People with bone, joint and muscle pain saw their symptoms worsen during lockdown – according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Read more >
Lorries queued on the M20 motorway in Kent
23 Sep 2020

No deal Brexit risks queues at the border and food shortages, new academic report finds

The most immediate and visible impact of the UK failing to get a deal with the EU will be seen at the border, with risks of queues and shortages of food, a new...

Read more >
23 Sep 2020

Putting virtual rehab for stroke patients to the test

Researchers at the University of East Anglia have been putting virtual reality rehabilitation for stroke survivors to the test.

Read more >
Are you searching for something?
Reconstruction of the Roman Temple the Caistor team investigated
23 Sep 2020

East Anglian Studies uncovers region's rich history

Read more >
Subtropical Atlantic Forest, Southern Brazil
15 Sep 2020

Study reveals impact of centuries of human activity in American tropics

The devastating effects of human activity on wildlife in the American tropics over the last 500 years are revealed in a new study published today.

Read more >
Soldiers in a savannah
14 Sep 2020

Study examines how civil wars affect wildlife populations

A new study comprehensively reveals how civil wars impact wildlife in countries affected by conflict.

Read more >
Union Jack and EU flag on cracked wall background

Amending Brexit deal will increase frictions within UK and beyond

The government’s decision to scrap part of its Brexit deal will increase frictions with the EU, as well as threatening the fragile political equilibrium in...

Read more >
testing for coronavirus in a lab
07 Sep 2020

Testing Initiative at UEA

UEA intends to offer coronavirus testing to all students and staff working on campus at the start of term.

Read more >
04 Sep 2020

UEA lecturer makes Newton Prize shortlist

A University of East Anglia (UEA) Honorary Senior Lecturer, Sue Down, is part of a team that has been shortlisted for the 2020 Newton Prize. 

Read more >
Researcher with gloved hand holding vial containing HIV blood sample, with more samples in the background
27 Aug 2020

The patients left behind by HIV research

People with HIV from BAME communities, women and heterosexual men are underrepresented in HIV studies – according to new research from UEA and Western Sydney...

Read more >