There is another way of looking at this: In Korea and Singapore, more than one in two students from the bottom quarter of the socio-economic spectrum score among the most proficient quarter of the world’s students on PISA; in Japan, 45 percent of disadvantaged students are similarly “resilient” and perform better on the PISA test than their backgrounds would predict. By contrast, in France and the United States, only around 20 percent of students are resilient, and in Israel, just one in 10 is.

So what does all this mean? Socio-economic disadvantage is a challenge to educators everywhere, but in countries like France and the United States, perceived disadvantage is far greater than real disadvantage and it makes a significant difference for student performance. In countries like Singapore, real disadvantage is far greater than school principals’ perception of it, but Singapore’s schools seem to be able to help their students overcome that disadvantage.

1. Or more precisely, the percentage of lower-secondary teachers in schools whose principals reported that more than 30 percent of students are from disadvantaged homes. Data are based on the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), which is representative of the teaching force in the participating countries.

2. Referred to as the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) index of economic, social and cultural status (ESCS).
3. Significant here means more than 30 percent of students from disadvantaged homes in the school.
4. Measured here by the percentage of variation in mathematics performance that is explained by the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status (ESCS).

Links
PISA 2012 Results: Excellence Through Equity: Giving Every Student the Chance to Succeed (Volume II)
The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) – 2013 Results
Chart source: © OECD TALIS 2013 and PISA 2012 database

Andreas Schleicher is Director of the Directorate for Education and SkillsThis article first appeared in oecdeducationtoday.