Who gets the worst grades in school?

1 in 10 Spanish 15-year-old students does not reach a basic level of knowledge. According to the OECD's own definition, this means "that he is not capable of complex reasoning and that, as an adult, he will not be able to face common problems of modern life.". That translates to 42.000 Spanish students have an insufficient level in three subjects: mathematics, reading and science, according to the latest report of this international organization, Low-achieving students: why they are left behind and how to help them succeed, presented this Wednesday and prepared with results of the PISA evaluation of 2012. The organization calls on governments "make low achievement an educational priority " and dedicate "additional resources ".

The report looks at 13 million 15-year-old students from 64 countries who are inserted in a vicious cycle of low performance and demotivation that frequently leads to poor grades and an early dropout from the school system, and that in Spain it would affect one in four schoolchildren of that age.

On this occasion, Spain fares better in this comparative study than in other PISA reports. National students exceed the OECD average with a 10% laggards in the three subjects compared to 12%. If we go one by one, the results are also better in Sciences (16% versus 18% on average, ahead of countries such as France, Italy or the United States). On reading, the percentage is the same (18% in both cases, also ahead of France, Italy or Portugal) and in math worsens slightly (24% versus 23%, respectively, with a worse result than France, the United Kingdom or Germany).

The education system fails to correct inequalities

The personal, family, geographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the student largely determine their performance in the education system, the same one that does not correct the differences to guarantee equal opportunities. Thus, students who come from disadvantaged families have 17% more chances of low achievement in mathematics than those from medium (10%) and well-to-do (5%) families.

The report reflects a direct relationship between a higher concentration of students with poor grades and fewer educational and teaching resources.

Let's take a practical example. A male student with his two parents in a home, with a good economic situation, whose mother tongue is the same as that of the school, who lives in a city, has completed more than one year of early childhood education and has never repeated a grade have a 10% chance of falling behind in math (the area the 2012 report focused the most on). The possibilities are greater for girls, students with low family incomes and of immigrant origin, for those who have not received preschool education, have repeated a course and have enrolled in Initial Professional Qualification Programs, the report cites, the courses that the Government replaced by the current basic VET.


The OECD emphasizes that it is not about increasing spending on education - once it has reached the level that guarantees its correct development - but about the distribution. Or what is the same: what makes the difference is how and when the expense is made.

There is a direct relationship between a higher concentration of students with poor grades and fewer educational resources

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