Socioeconomic Inequalities and Academic Achievement in Spain
1At the age of 15, there is an 82-point PISA gap (equivalent to two years of schooling) between pupils from homes of a higher socioeconomic status and those from homes of a lower socioeconomic status.
2In Spain, coming from a home in the bottom socioeconomic quartile results in a six-fold increase in the risk of having a very low academic achievement.
3Socioeconomic status is one of the main determining factors of the risk of not completing higher secondary education, the greatest challenge the Spanish education system faces.
4The results of reading tests on pupils aged ten show considerable differences depending on families’ socioeconomic and educational status. This inequality appears early on in youngsters’ lives and then continues or worsens during secondary education.
5Spanish pupils with a lower socioeconomic background run a greater risk of having to repeat academic years. In addition, the evidence indicates that repeating a year has an especially negative impact on the subsequent achievement of these pupils: repeating a year is the precursor to dropping out of school and early abandonment of education.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that, in Spain, the difference in results between private and publicly-run schools is fundamentally due to the different socioeconomic backgrounds of their pupils. In fact, the performance of publicly-run schools is slightly higher than that of private schools if we control for the effect of the socioeconomic status of their pupils: once the effects of the socioeconomic status of the pupils and the school are discounted from the results, the gap of some 30 PISA points (the equivalent of a year of schooling) in favour of private schools becomes one of ten points in favour of publicly-run schools.
Recommendations on action to tackle the situation:
- Early intervention in the education system, with a greater participation of the public sector in the stage from 0 to 3 years old.
- Continuation of aid, such as grants, focused on pupils from a lower socioeconomic background: it has been shown that this aid has the ability to reduce the initial disadvantage.
- Help in making educational decisions for families and pupils, for example by boosting academic guidance services.
- Reduction in the segregation of pupils between schools for socioeconomic reasons, given the importance of the ‘peer effect’.