International evidence on what helps poor children succeed

A recent Policy Brief from the IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) explores the issue of socio-economically disadvantaged pupils who are academically successful, or “academically resilient”.

The authors used data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to explore how prevalent academically resilient pupils are across education systems and what factors are associated with academic resilience within those systems. They focussed on children aged 13/14 in 28 education systems with sufficient numbers of academically resilient pupils for analysis.

The findings included:

  • Environments of high academic achievement appear to support academic resilience among disadvantaged pupils. In general, education systems with lower percentages of disadvantaged pupils tended to produce larger percentages of academically resilient pupils (eg, Japan and Korea), whereas those with higher percentages of disadvantaged pupils tended to produce lower percentages of academically resilient pupils (eg, Morocco and Ghana).
  • Pupils’ high educational aspirations appear to be the strongest and most consistent predictor of academic resilience; and
  • School factors associated with academic resilience include teachers’ positive attitudes about pupils’ learning abilities, and schools’ emphasis on academic success.

However, the brief concludes that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and that policy makers in individual countries need to examine which factors are relevant in their own contexts.

Source: Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students who are Academically Successful: Examining Academic Resilience Cross-nationally (2015), IEA.

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