Inequality of access to education within countries

Experimental visualization of narrower problems

Certain sectors of education are highly selective, depending on the social status of the classes for which they cater. Children of the poor or those who belong to groups suffering racial or social discrimination are in a difficult position from the outset, whether from lack of due care for physical and mental requirements of early childhood, or lack of pre-school education. They are handicapped, sometimes irremediably so, in comparison to children of wealthier classes or those from backgrounds more favourable to proper growth and development. Where school vacancies are increasingly limited as pupils mount the promotion ladder, a more or less arbitrary selection process prevents many who are capable of continuing their studies from so doing. The inadequate development of literacy programmes and out-of-school vocational training means that those who missed their chance of entering the school network at the outset find it less and less possible to educate themselves as they grow older. Thus, the universal right to education is often denied, by a complete reversal of justice, to the most underprivileged. They are the first to be denied this right in poor societies; and those most likely to be deprived in rich societies.

Equal access to education is only a necessary (not a sufficient) condition for justice. Equal access is not equal opportunity. This must comprise equal chance of success. But chances of this kind, on the contrary, are very unequal. The negative correlation between the financial, social and cultural status of families and the opportunity of access to the varying types of education, and thereafter of success, is far from having the same weight in every country, although it remains a universal phenomenon. Children from poor backgrounds Children from poor backgrounds are compelled to go to work prematurely, students who work have to do so in addition to studying. Poor hygiene, inadequate diets, and overcrowded homes hinder education development, and Other equally important causes include cultural conditions (especially language), that determine the level and content of academically useful pre-school knowledge.


Regional differences can reach such considerable proportions that figures relating to the educational situation in two different geographic sectors, for example, may vary by more than 50% in relation to the national average for the same item. In India, significant disparities may be seen in comparisons between the average school enrolment rate for the 6-11 year old age group, which is 80%, and regional rates, such as 121% in Nagaland, 77% in Andhra Pradesh, 68% in Punjab and 57% in Madhya Pradesh. In one country in Latin America, 66% of primary schools in urban areas offered the full five years of the elementary educational cycle, whereas only 6% did so in rural areas, and 59% of village schools provided only two years of schooling. Other examples of inequality include the concentration of educational facilities in the major cities and towns, to to rural zones, and their concentration near city centres to the detriment of shanty towns, favelas and other poor districts lacking the schools available to their richer neighbours. There are numerous cases of ethnic or racial inequality, even in countries with ample material means to remedy the situation.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST