Social inequality has a major impact on the kind of schooling children receive and poses a significant challenge to provide all children with equal learning opportunities, according to a report released today by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).“The data reveal how social inequality affects a child’s opportunity to learn. And clearly, no country – rich or poor – is immune to these disparities,” Hendrik van der Pol, director of UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, said.The report, which is based on a survey of 7,600 schools in 11 countries in Latin America, Asia and North Africa, reveals a particularly glaring gap between the resources available to urban and rural schools. In India, the report found that 27 per cent of village schools have electricity compared to 76 per cent of schools in towns or cities. Only about half of the rural schools surveyed have enough toilets for girls and fewer than 4 per cent have a telephone.In Peru, fewer than half of village schools are equipped with electricity, a library or toilets for boys or girls. Yet, in urban areas, nearly all schools have electricity, 65 per cent have enough lavatories and 74 per cent have libraries. In general, village schools are in greater need of repair, according to the survey results. In Brazil, half the pupils in villages sit in run-down classrooms compared to fewer than 30 per cent of pupils in urban establishments. The survey also found wide variations in how much parents were expected to contribute financially. In Tunisia, the parents of one-third of pupils were asked to pay for textbooks. This was the case for 24 per cent of pupils in Argentina and almost 10 per cent in India. Sri Lanka was the only country to provide textbooks for free to virtually all students.“It is disturbing to think that students get more or less resources based on where they live. But that is just part of the story,” says Yanhong Zhang, one of the authors of the report. “The inequalities in school resources are linked to their socio-economic status. In effect, these children are subject to a double-jeopardy – with fewer resources at home and in school.”According to the study, teachers and principals in schools serving socially-disadvantaged children tend to report lower levels of pupil motivation and more behavioural problems. In these schools, teachers were generally dissatisfied with salary, parental support, class size and access to classroom materials.The UNESCO survey was carried out in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, India, Malaysia, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Uruguay. 28 May 2008Social inequality has a major impact on the kind of schooling children receive and poses a significant challenge to provide all children with equal learning opportunities, according to a report released today by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).