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The Impact of Poverty on Educational Opportunities



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Poverty continues to have a profound impact on the educational opportunities available to young people, even in societies where there is public provision of education. In societies where children are able to go to school without their parents having to pay fees, those from disadvantaged backgrounds have fewer opportunities than their wealthier peers. Children whose parents are poor may not have the educational or material resources to be able to offer the support needed for their children to achieve educational success.

The impact of poverty on educational opportunities is obviously starker in countries where there is only a patchwork of fee-paying schools and no state-funded educational system. In the developing world, there are children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school who then grow up unable to read or write. This clearly limits the options these children have in life and it becomes extremely difficult for them to escape the poverty trap. Many children are forced to work from an early age and would love the opportunity to get an education.

In the Western world, children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are sometimes less keen on the prospect of going to school. Schools located in areas where there are high levels of poverty are often beset by problems such as truancy and teenage pregnancy. It can be difficult for these schools to recruit the most capable staff who would have a better chance of dealing with the behavioural and emotional issues which many of the students bring with them into school. It can be hard for students to find any motivation to study when their peers are not interested in learning and they don’t have the right kind of support they need at home or school.

Poverty means that children usually do not get the best education, since they often live in areas where they only have access to the most rundown schools, where teachers are too busy struggling to keep control of the classroom to actually teach anything. Parents may not know how to offer their children the right kind of encouragement, especially if they left school before graduating. If children leave high school before finishing their exams or they fail, they probably will decide not to go on to college or university. Even those who do decide to continue with their education may have a harder time getting into the most prestigious institutions.

It is unfortunate that poverty has such a negative impact on young people’s educational opportunities, especially when education offers the best escape route out of poverty. It would appear that the education system simply fails to meet the needs of those who could most benefit from a decent education.

More about this author: Michelle Wilkinson

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