Socio-Economic Issues

"You're born into this life paying, for the sins of somebody else's past." Bruce Springsteen

Hattie's caveat that he does not address socio-economic issues has come under some criticism. Emeritus Professor Ivan Snook, et al, "... social class background is indeed more important than many of the issues discussed in this book and hence policy decisions cannot be drawn in isolation from the background variables of class, poverty, health" (p2).

Snook et al, also make the point that the impression the book gives is that socio-economic background is unimportant and warns that this can be "appropriated by political and ideological interests and used in ways in which the data do not substantiate" (p1).

This, of course, was denied by Hattie. However, that prediction has come to pass, in Australia, with the Federal government blocking a redress of socio-economic imbalance in education using Hattie's work as justification.

Similar events have occurred in New Zealand, prompting Professor John O'Neill's AMAZING letter to the NZ Minister of Education on the problem of using Hattie's research for class size policy.

Dr Zyngier links class size and socio-economic imbalance: "The class size debate should now focus on weighing up the cost-benefit of class size reductions. Australian public education needs a more nuanced funding program that recognises where schools that are well-resourced already do not necessarily need the lower class sizes that disadvantaged schools require. Schools that are performing at the lower end of standardised tests such as NAPLAN, and where reducing class sizes is most needed, should be first to receive additional support. The Gonski Review’s conclusion that more funds should go to schools that need it most supports this concept" (p18).


The PISA analysis consistently identifies socio-economic imbalance as a major issue for Countries to address, for example, from PISA 2012 Results in Focus:
"Across OECD countries, a more socio-economically advantaged student scores 39 points higher in mathematics – the equivalent of nearly one year of schooling – than a less-advantaged student" (p12).

"Across most countries and economies, socio-economically disadvantaged students not only score lower in mathematics, they also reported lower levels of engagement, drive, motivation, and self-beliefs" (p18).

From PISA results 2012: Excellence through Equity:
"Better schools for disadvantaged students can help reduce socio-economic disparities in performance; but countries also need to consider other policies that affect families, such as those to reduce poverty, malnutrition, and inadequate housing, those to improve parents’ education, and other social policies that can also improve student learning" (p44).

"More than half of the performance differences observed across students in different schools can be accounted for by socio-economic disparities across students and schools, on average across OECD countries" (p46).

From PISA 2003 Learning for Tomorrows World – First results from PISA 2003:
"home background remains one of the most powerful factors influencing performance" (p165).

A report just released "Uneven Playing Feild - The State of Australia's Schools" by two ex-principals - Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd show the growing divide between the most advantaged versus disadvantaged students.

The Coleman Report (USA):

The Coleman Report is widely considered the most important education study of the 20th century.

"Using data from over 600,000 students and teachers across the country, the researchers found that academic achievement was less related to the quality of a student's school and more related to the social composition of the school, the student's sense of control of his environment and future, the verbal skills of teachers, and the student's family background."