Transforming Education

Global Perspectives, Experiences and Implications

by Robert A. DeVillar (Volume editor) Binbin Jiang (Volume editor) Jim Cummins (Volume editor)
©2013 Textbook X, 280 Pages
Series: Educational Psychology, Volume 24


This research-based volume presents a substantive, panoramic view of ways in which Australia and countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America engage in educational programs and practices to transform the learning processes and outcomes of their students. It reveals and analyzes national and global trajectories in key areas of educational development, and enhances readers’ understanding of the nature and complexity of educational transformation in a global context. The book’s comprehensive analysis of factors associated with transforming education within globally representative geographical, cultural, and political contexts contributes to critical scholarship; its discussion of individual country findings and cross-country patterns has significant implications for educational practitioners and leaders. The volume has direct practical relevance for educational practitioners and leaders, policymakers, and researchers, as nations remain in dire need of effective ways and means to transform their respective educational systems to (1) more ably realize educational equity, (2) make learning relevant to an increasingly diverse overall student populace, (3) ensure individual and general prosperity, and (4) promote substantive global collaboration in developing the new economy.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Editors
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Robert A. DeVillar, Binbin Jiang, & Jim Cummins
  • References
  • PART ONE: Understanding Transformation in Multiple Country Contexts
  • CHAPTER ONE: The Role of Research on Literacy, Poverty, and Diversity in Transforming Schools: A Critical Analysis of PISA Cross-National Findings: Jim Cummins
  • New Times, New Challenges
  • Deconstructing “Disadvantage”
  • What Constitutes “Evidence” in Evidence-Based Policymaking?
  • The PISA Cross-National Findings
  • Overall Pattern of Academic Outcomes
  • Predictors of Achievement
  • Implementing Evidence-Based Policies: Pedagogies for Equity and Excellence
  • Scaffold Meaning
  • Connect to Students’ Lives
  • Extend Language
  • Maximize Print Access and Literacy Engagement
  • Affirm Students’ Identities
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • CHAPTER TWO: Multiple Paths to the 21st Century: National Responses to Enhancing Education with ICTs in Chile, India, and Turkey: Daniel Light
  • Theoretical Perspective
  • Overview of the Three National Contexts
  • Indian Educational Context
  • Chilean Educational Context
  • Turkish Educational Context
  • Overview of the Intel Essentials Course and Local Variation
  • Methodology
  • Local Research Support in Turkey, Chile, and India
  • Selecting the Schools in Turkey, Chile, and India
  • Collecting Data Across All Three Nations
  • Data Analysis
  • Findings
  • Changes in Teachers’ Knowledge, Beliefs, and Attitudes
  • Changes in How Students Engage with Content
  • Changes in Relationships Among Teachers, Students, and Parents
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • PART TWO: Transformation in Teacher Education
  • CHAPTER THREE: Transforming Education by Contextualizing Professional Learning for Teachers: A Case in Science and Mathematics in Australia: Debra L. Panizzon, Mark Ward, & Martin Westwell
  • Engagement in Science and Mathematics
  • Professional Learning for Teachers
  • School to Work: Science and Mathematics Program
  • Monitoring Change in Schools
  • Research Questions
  • Research Sample, Data Collection, and Analysis
  • Evidence of Transformation in Teacher Practice
  • Emerging Implications for Teacher Professionals
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • CHAPTER FOUR: What Can We Do Even Better?: Research for Promoting Quality in Teacher Education in Finland: Hannele Niemi
  • The Case of Finland: A Web of Interrelated Factors in Educational Success
  • Value Basis of the Educational System
  • Core Curriculum and Local Responsibilities Supporting Learning Skills
  • The Role of Assessments
  • Finland’s High-Quality Teaching Profession and Teacher Education
  • Pedagogical Studies
  • Strengths and Weaknesses of Finnish Teacher Education
  • Teachers’ Professional Skills
  • Professional Learning and Active Learning in Teacher Education
  • Research Component in Teacher Education
  • ICT in Teacher Education
  • The Finnish Challenges
  • References
  • CHAPTER FIVE: Transforming Teacher Education for Social Equity in China: Heng Jiang
  • Introduction
  • Perspectives of Teacher Education for Social Equity and Justice
  • Restructuring Teacher Education in China: Equal Access to Excellent Teachers
  • 1. Free Teacher Education (Mian Fei Shi Fan Sheng Jiao Yu, 免费师范生教育)
  • 2. Dinggang Internship (Ding Gang Shi Xi, 顶岗实习)
  • 3. Special Teaching Positions (Tegang Jiao Shi, 特岗教师)
  • 4. National Professional Development Programs for Teachers (Guo Pei Ji Hua, 国培计划)
  • Revisiting the Dual Perspectives of “Redistribution” and “Recognition”: Transforming Teacher Education for Social Equity and Justice in China
  • Notes
  • References
  • CHAPTER SIX: The Perceptions of Teachers in Sierra Leone’s Secondary Education Reform: Yee Han (Peter) Joong & Kathryn Noel
  • Educational Significance
  • Objectives of the Study
  • Research Methods and Sources of Data
  • Results
  • Sample Description
  • Curriculum Planning, Teaching Strategies, and Student Evaluation
  • Meeting the Needs of Students with Special Needs
  • Classroom Management
  • Student Achievement and Reform Implementation
  • Teachers’ Personal Opinions of Changes in Education and Students
  • Conclusions
  • Discussion
  • Recommendations
  • Appendix
  • Teacher Survey in Sierra Leone
  • A. Background Information
  • B. Curriculum Planning
  • C. In-Service Teacher Training
  • D. Teaching Strategies
  • E. Student Evaluation Strategies:
  • F. Classroom Management, Class Behaviour and Teaching Effectiveness
  • G. Curriculum Planning and Teaching Strategies:
  • H. Personal Opinions:
  • References
  • PART THREE: Diversity in Context: Issues and Implications in Transformation
  • CHAPTER SEVEN: Compulsory Education for Migrant Children in China: Issues in Educational Quality: Henan Cheng
  • Chinese Compulsory Education Policies for Migrant Children and Key Issues
  • Compulsory Education Policies for Migrant Children
  • Key Issues in the Compulsory Education of Migrant Children
  • Educational Access
  • Educational Quality
  • Case Study: Compulsory Education of Migrant Children in Kunming, Yunnan Province
  • Context of the Study
  • Data and Method
  • Results
  • Conclusion and Discussion
  • Notes
  • References
  • CHAPTER EIGHT: The Effects of Student Teaching Abroad on Professional Development, Character Formation, and Cultural Responsiveness: Binbin Jiang & Robert A. DeVillar
  • Background to the Study/Problem Statement
  • Comparative Demographics in Teacher Preparation in the United States
  • Differential Schooling and Student Achievement Gap
  • Challenge for Teacher Preparation Programs
  • Objective and Methodology
  • Formulation of Research Methods and Questions
  • Participant Demographics
  • Comparative Contextual Demographics
  • Findings and Discussion
  • e-Journal Reflections
  • End-of-Program Questionnaire Findings
  • Development in Professional and Personal Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions
  • Positive Emotional Preparedness
  • Economically Differentiated School Contexts
  • Connection Between International Student Teaching and Future Teaching in the United States
  • Implications of the Study
  • Note
  • References
  • CHAPTER NINE: Transforming Education in South Korea: Currents in Critical Perspective: Sohyun An
  • How Did We Get Here? The Sociohistorical Context of Educational Transformation in South Korea
  • Critical Problems and Reform Efforts in South Korean Education
  • 1. Excessive Educational Competition and Exam-Driven Education
  • 2. An Inordinate Amount of Private Tutoring and the Consequent Increases in Inequality
  • 3. Centralized Educational Decision Making and the Undemocratic Nature of Schooling
  • 4. Educational Quality and Excellence
  • Evaluation of Reform Efforts
  • Educational Reforms That Do Not Hit the Root Causes
  • Growing Voices in the Midst of National Acquiescence
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • CHAPTER TEN: Accessing Inclusive Education: Family Stories from India: Srikala Naraian & Poonam Natarajan
  • The Legislative Context of Inclusive Education In India
  • Experiences of Families of Students with Disabilities
  • Research Context
  • Shiksha
  • The Context of Family Commitments to Inclusive Education in India
  • The Struggle for Access: Mother Stories
  • “If [only] that would have been understood properly…”: Unfair Struggles
  • Touch wood! Things are going well! Next steps….
  • “I don’t hope anything”: Turning Away from the Future
  • “If he can do this much, then…”: Guarded Optimism
  • Family Decision Making in the Context of Inclusive Education in India
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • PART FOUR: Transformational Issues in Educational Leadership
  • CHAPTER ELEVEN: Networking and Transformation: School Leadership Programs and Practices in Singapore: Lee Hean Lim & Zhi Quan Lim
  • Introduction to a 3-Decade Journey
  • School Autonomy and Structured Mentoring in the 1980s and 1990s
  • Transforming Workplace Practice in Network-of-Learning Relationships Through Sustained System-Wide Leadership Mentoring
  • Key Learning and Practice of Leading People
  • Leadership Program Change in the First Decade of the 21st Century
  • Leadership Program Change in the Second Decade of the 21st Century
  • Common Thread of Leadership Envisioning in Evolving Programs
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • CHAPTER TWELVE: Leading for Educational Revolution in the United Arab Emirates: Remapping Culture, Educational Outcomes, and Paradigm Shift: Robin R. Dada
  • Review of the Literature
  • Historical and Cultural Leadership Perspectives in the Arab Gulf
  • Arab Leaders and Western Leadership Models
  • Arab Leaders’ Descriptions of Their Leadership and Decision-Making Styles
  • Methodology
  • Findings
  • Majida
  • Laila
  • Saeed
  • Discussion
  • Teacher and Principal Leadership in Schools
  • Parent Support in the Schools
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Author Biographies
  • Index




We are delighted and honored to express our gratitude and appreciation to those who provided support, assistance, and guidance to us at different stages in our editing of this book.

We are deeply grateful to Greg Goodman, as series editor, for his support, understanding, and consummate professionalism throughout the demanding process associated with the book’s ultimate production. We also are very appreciative of the excellent copyediting and formatting of the book by Peter Lang’s outstanding staff, Phyllis Korper and Sophie Appel. We extend our sincere appreciation to Chris Meyers and others at Peter Lang for their strong support and helpful guidance during the process of producing this book.

In Spring 2012, Robert received a Global Learning Grant from the Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University, which provided one course release for him. The grant furnished him valuable time that contributed to the completion of the book. In addition, Catherine Kloud, our graduate research assistant at Kennesaw State University, assisted in generating a fine preliminary draft of the index of the book. We extend our deepest appreciation to Barbara Morton for producing the final index.

As this book is an international collaboration of scholars and researchers from across the globe, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to each for their active participation in contributing to this volume their research-based and research-informed works on transforming education in macro and micro contexts. Their timeliness← IX | X → in meeting each due date and responding to our requests demonstrated their commitment and dedication to this volume despite their busy academic schedules in their respective settings.

For the complex and provocative array of questions, comments, and reflections consistently generated by our undergraduate and graduate students, which challenged and inspired us to write a book that would address their intellectual and pedagogical concerns and needs as students and aspiring professionals, we are especially grateful.

We thank all of the above, as well as all those who remain unnamed. Furthermore, we hope that Transforming Education will help postsecondary students, scholars, policymakers, and leaders, irrespective of their global setting, in broadening their understanding of the complexities, challenges, and opportunities in transforming education and learning from the transformational perspectives, policies, and practices presented in this research-informed volume.

Robert A. DeVillar

Binbin Jiang

Jim Cummins

← X | 1 →




Robert A. DeVillar, Binbin Jiang, & Jim Cummins


This volume presents a substantive view of ways in which Australia and countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America are engaged in educational programs and practices that transform the learning processes and outcomes of their respective student populations—and, in one case, of student teachers from other countries—and, in so doing, their respective national and global trajectories in key areas of development. The purpose of this introduction, however, is, first, to place the role of education within its current complex and highly politicized global context, particularly in the wake of a 3-decade global embrace of neoliberalism-cum-corporatism and disaffection with social democracy (see Scruton, 2007, for working definitions of these terms); second, to gauge that trend’s deleterious economic effects on the middle class and poor in traditional advanced economies; and third, to relate the above two realities to the concomitant national and geopolitical uncertainties that have ensued. The alternative model, termed by some the new economy (Cavanagh & Broad, 2012), emphasizes efforts toward globalization that are “economically equitable, authentically democratic, and ecologically sound” (Hunter & Yates, 2002).

A statement by Gunnar Myrdal (renowned author and 1974 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences) in his 3-volume work Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations (1968)—itself a culmination of his decade-long research regarding South Asia—embodied the long-held principle relating education to national development. ← 1 | 2 →

For both children and adults, literacy and general knowledge facilitate the acquisition of specified skills, and may help to bring about a rationalization of attitudes. In turn, more rational attitudes provide a motivational preparedness that can facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and skills. In general, educational policy must have the central purpose of directing and apportioning educational efforts so as to give maximum impetus to national development…. What is needed is not simply an expansion of educational facilities and their reapportioning to serve the various age groups, both sexes, and all social classes, but a more purposive selection of the knowledge and skills taught, the attitudes implanted, and the learning methods employed. (Vol. III, p. 1622)

The question remains as to the goal of education—regardless of the particular nation or its specific form of government—were the criteria stipulated above by Myrdal met, whether in perception or fact.

In this volume, the forms of government are generally characterized as democracy or republic (the exception being the UAE, a federal monarchy). Such terms, of course, are porous, and one person’s democracy may be another’s republic, and a designated constitutional monarchy to one may be, in the eyes of another, a federal monarchy. In today’s world of developed and emerging markets, the goal of education can generate internal conflicts as to its purpose and funding. While standards-based testing is arguably one of the most visible controversies in the United States, a more recent and onerous conflict has expressed itself in terms of government-supported privatization strategies and practices within the public sector, including education, that Klein (2008, p. 18) labels corporatism and characterizes as “the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations and skeletal social spending.” Corporatism extends, moreover, beyond the United States and includes, according to Klein (2008, p. 18), China and Russia, as well as other countries around the globe, irrespective of geography or voiced ideology.

A graver phenomenon is the portrayal of corporatism—at once highly profitable and geographically widespread, yet societally contentious within countries designated as democracies or republics (or an admixture)—as national development. Moreover, the conflation of these opposing terms heightens the value of privatization while simultaneously diminishing the value of the public sector and its services, both in kind and degree. From roughly 1930 to 1980, the term national development within democracies and republics—regardless of the particular economic system undergirding these—had denoted a commitment to an inclusive system that integrated government-sponsored programs to benefit the general population to varying degrees. In the United States, programs included public education at pre-school, kindergarten through high school, postsecondary education, and adult education levels, as well as public services for those in need due to adverse physical, mental, health, or economic circumstances. The U.S. government initiated the provision of economic security for retirees and provided large-scale work opportunities during the 1930s, policies that were in keeping with foundational values characterizing the United States and the contextual realities ← 2 | 3 → of the Great Depression. On August 14, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act, which included a social insurance program that would ensure lifelong payments to workers, initially based on the amount and span of their payroll-deduction contributions before their retirement at age 65 (U.S. Social Security Administration, 2012).

The concept of a socially oriented state security program was not unique to the United States. The English Poor Laws, for example, were implemented as early as 1601 in England to provide a semblance of economic security for the poor. However, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck has been credited with establishing the first welfare state, Germany, based on the creation of social programs in health (1883), accident insurance (1884), and pensions for the aged (1889) (Otto von Bismarck, 2012). Even before, in 1862, the U.S. government had established pensions for disabled veterans of the Civil War (1861–1865) or, for those soldiers who had perished, pensions for their widows or orphaned children (U.S. Social Security Administration, 2013).

The corporatist exclusive system “erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business” and claims that “unfettered free markets go hand in hand with democracy” (Klein, 2008, pp. 18, 22). In the pre-corporatist world, ranging roughly in the United States from the initiation of the New Deal era (1933) to the election of President Ronald Reagan (1980), national development comprised essential social elements that, as described by McCartin (2001),

saw an unprecedented level of federal intervention to regulate economic life and provide basic welfare to citizens [which] facilitated…the rise of unions among mass-production workers, demands for progress by women and minorities, and the growth of populist influence in culture and the arts. (p. 546)

The current tension, of course, is by no means new within democracies or republics. Historically, however, the degree of ideological division regarding planned or sustained state engagement has been greater in Western contexts than in developing contexts, where planned state engagement in designing and executing policies to provide social programs and safety nets was less ideologically divisive (see Myrdal, 1968, Vol. II, pp. 712–713), at least until the past few decades. Regardless of competing ideological orientations, whether in Europe or the United States, toward the role of statism—classical liberalism, neoliberalism, or social democracy (Rose, 2012)—“the building of railroads and public utilities…could not have come about without extensive state intervention [even though] the inclination has often been to assume that all state intervention was misguided and retarding” (Myrdal, 1968, Vol. II, p. 713).

More recent state interventions in 2008 and 2009 familiar to and directly felt by the U.S. public and the world at large included the financial sector and automotive industry bailouts and the economic stimulus package, among others, ← 3 | 4 → involving state disbursements of $3 trillion and commitments totaling $11 trillion (see Goldman, n.d., for total listing; Mueller, 2012). In late 2008 the People’s Republic of China announced its own stimulus package of US$586 billion. The largest parts (50%) of the stimulus package targeted building up the PRC’s public infrastructure to include “railway, road, irrigation, and airport construction [as well as] reconstruction works…low-cost housing, rehabilitation of slums, and other social safety net projects”; the lowest amount, less than US$22 billion (¥150 billion), was allocated for “educational, cultural and family planning purposes” (“China’s Stimulus Package,” 2009). The educational, cultural, and family planning allocations within the Chinese stimulus package accounted for 14.6% of the total package, while the stimulus funds for education in the United States accounted for 4.5% ($14 billion) of the total package ($311 billion) (Grabell & Weaver, 2009).

The European Union’s (EU) recently operationalized European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a financial assistance-cum-rescue package, commits up to US$650 billion (€500 billion) in loans to banks and governments (Kanter, 2012), although the guaranteed amount has already been increased by hundreds of billions of dollars to further assist financially troubled EU member states. European financial experts are aware, nevertheless, that bailouts have historically been costly and that the recovery rates on loans are generally low (Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, 2009).

Past financial crises have generally been very costly. When analyzing a subset of 49 crisis episodes from the 122 systemic financial crises that occurred since 1970 around the world, one finds that net direct fiscal outlays to rehabilitate the banking system averaged 13% of GDP but were much higher, over 50% of GDP, in some emerging market economies. These figures already account for the values recovered (until six years after the crisis broke out) from assets acquired by the public sector. Recovery rates were rather low at only 20% on average. (p. 3)

A concurrent phenomenon—one that is tied to the global financial crises but older in origin—relates to a growing gap between the wealthy and every other income class in industrialized countries and, although somewhat tempered by slight decreases in inequality in countries with historically wide income gaps (e.g., 50 to 1 in Brazil), emerging market countries. This gap-widening phenomenon, as observed in the United States and globally, has been linked to the University of Chicago’s school of economic thought. More specifically, it has been tied to the economic framework and models of Milton Friedman—and the politics of President Ronald Reagan that followed (Cavanagh & Broad, 2012).

The “pure capitalistic” model, which has been characterized, rationalized, and implemented to varying degrees under different labels in different historical periods (e.g., capitalist, liberal, conservative, corporatist [Klein, 2008]), includes a wide range of economic elements that consistently place those in the middle ← 4 | 5 → class and below in a constant context of economic challenges amid increasing uncertainty. Conditions that were viewed as exceptional have, for these income groups in their more than 3-decade decline, become commonplace: disturbingly high unemployment, long-term consumer debt, massive foreclosures and devaluation of housing prices, and substantial price increases for essential goods and services—food, gas, education (through privatization and decreased support for postsecondary public institutions), and health care—and lower wages or stagnant salaries for employees (see, for example, AA Public Affairs, 2012; Chessum, 2012; “Cost of College Degree in U.S.,” 2012; Nixon, 2012). In stark contrast to this trend, the differential between what corporate executives earned increased exponentially during this same period: in the 1970s, the earnings differential between corporate executives and their lowest-paid employees was 40 to 1; in 2007, it was more than 400 to 1 (Packer, 2011).

Economic inequality has surged since the 1970s in the United States and, since the 1980s, in other self-designated democracies and republics, with generally devastating consequences for the middle and lower classes. In the United States, the economic meltdown of the middle class and the decline in economic mobility has been attributed to a break in the social contract that began in 1978 and has been characterized by some as a misreading of the public’s mood toward inflation, unemployment, and gas prices that culminated in the one-term presidency of Jimmy Carter and the election of Ronald Reagan. Packer (2011) describes the social contract as a break from

“middle-class democracy”…an unwritten social contract among labor, business, and government—between the elites and the masses [that] guaranteed that the benefits of the economic growth following World War II were distributed more widely, and with more shared prosperity, than at any time in human history. (p. 23)

During this period, the self-perceived role of leaders within the private sector began its transformation from being “disinterested stewards of the national economy” to one of self-interest and was coupled with the dramatic expansion of lobbying to promote and secure goals associated with corporate self-interest. The period also saw the introduction of a political platform and politicians who were hostile to public policies and programs, organized labor, and regulation, and were supported by “organized money” and government actions favoring the rich (Cavanagh & Broad, 2012; Packer, 2011).

A recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study (OECD Social Policies and Data, 2011) using the Gini coefficient—a general standard of measuring inequality, where 0 is perfect equality and 1 is perfect inequality—reinforces widely available data that show:

Inequality rose in 17 of the 22 OECD countries for which long-term data series back to the 1980s are available. It climbed by more than 4 percentage points in Finland, Germany, ← 5 | 6 → Israel, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United States. Inequality remained relatively stable in France, Hungary, and Belgium while there were declines in Greece and Turkey and, more recently in Chile and Mexico, but from very high levels. (p. 2)

Even in traditionally egalitarian countries—such as Germany, Denmark and Sweden— the income gap between rich and poor is expanding—from 5 to 1 in the 1980s to 6 to 1 today. It’s 10 to 1 in Italy, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom, rising to 14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey and the United States and reaching more than 25 to 1 in Mexico and Chile. (p. 1)

The benefits of strong economic growth have not been evenly distributed and high levels of income inequality have risen further. Among the BRICs [Brazil, Russia, India, and China], only Brazil managed to strongly reduce inequality. But the gap between rich and poor is still at 50 to 1, five times that in the OECD countries. (p. 2)

Market income inequality—a combination of gross household earnings, savings, and capital—as measured by the Gini coefficient is even greater than disposable household income inequality, as the wealthier tend to augment their disposable income through substantial savings and capital accumulation. The lowest market income Gini coefficient in the 29 countries represented in the study—0.32—was registered by South Korea, which also reported the flattest disparity between household market income and household disposable income: 0.32 vs. 0.30 (OECD Social Policies and Data, 2011, p. 3). The United States and the United Kingdom registered 0.45 (the sixth highest) and nearly 0.46 (the fifth highest), respectively, in market income inequality, while household disposable income inequality was 0.37 for the United States and 0.30 for the United Kingdom. The average Gini coefficients for the 29 countries in terms of market and disposable incomes were 0.41 and 0.30, a gap that demonstrates, in the words of OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría:

Income inequality in OECD countries is at its highest level for the past half century…. The benefits of economic growth DO NOT [emphasis in original] trickle down automatically. This study dispels this assumption. Greater inequality DOES NOT [emphasis in original] foster social mobility. Without a comprehensive strategy for inclusive growth, inequality will continue to rise. There is nothing inevitable about high and growing inequalities. Our policies have created a system that makes them grow and it’s time to change these policies. Our report Divided We Stand provides powerful evidence of the need to “Go Social!” We need to put “better policies for better lives” at the centre of our policy efforts, while providing people with equal opportunities and hope. Income redistribution should be at the core of responsible governance. The OECD stands ready to support its member and partner countries in achieving this objective. Tackling inequalities continues to be our core business for economic reasons, for fair societies with equal opportunities, and not least for the well-being of our citizens! (OECD Social Policies and Data, 2011, paras. 3, 24–26) ← 6 | 7 →

There are exceptions to the downward trend, however slight in comparison to the general trend. The average Gini coefficient in the Arab region from 1970 through the 1990s, for example, was 0.39, which was substantially better than the 0.49 average of Latin America or the 0.44 average of sub-Saharan Africa during this same period (Galal, 2012). From the 1960s to the 1990s, educational access in the Arab region increased significantly: from 64.3% to 97.9% in elementary grades; from 20% to 73.6% in secondary grades; and, overall, from 1.3 average years of schooling in 1950 to 7.7 average years of schooling in 2010 (Galal, 2012).

Nevertheless, the gap between high-income countries (e.g., the United States, Canada, or Poland), upper-middle-income countries (Brazil, China, or Russia), lower-middle-income countries (Guatemala, India, or Nigeria), and low-income countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, or Kenya) increased from 1980 to 2010, despite substantial increases in middle-income groups in particular countries (e.g., China) (Conference Board of Canada, 2013). By dividing the world population of 6.4 billion into deciles of 640 million each, the Conference Board of Canada study found that the 16 countries comprising the top decile garnered 42% of total world income, “while just 1 per cent goes to those who make up the poorest 10 per cent. Global income distribution is therefore very highly skewed toward the 16 richest countries that make up the top decile.” The middle class in the high-in-come countries has steadily lost financial ground since the late 1970s when wages began to stagnate and employment became unstable, while business productivity and profits rose. The middle class was severely weakened both by a 3-decades-long increase in debt to fulfill its obligations (including rising educational expenses), and, eventually, unimaginable losses in housing values and retirement funds. The Conference Board of Canada study (Conference Board of Canada, 2013) illustrates the degree to which the rise in inequality has affected income distribution in the United States and, by extension, the nation’s ranking:

The U.S. currently has the worst record on income inequality among the 17 peer countries that we compare in the How Canada Performs report cards. This inequality, as measured by the Gini index, has been increasing since 1982. This increase, according to most researchers, has been due, at least in part, to a dramatic increase in the incomes of the rich. Harvard economist Richard Freeman notes that, over the last two decades, about 80 per cent of American families experienced income stagnation, while incomes of the very wealthy have soared. An income database developed by Facundo Alvaredo, Tony Atkinson, Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez—well-known researchers in the field of global inequality—reveals that the share of total U.S. income received by the richest 1 per cent of income earners more than doubled between 1970 and 2008.

What are the implications of these dramatic increases in social inequality for education? The relationship between educational inequality and economic development has been clearly expressed by the OECD in relation to the outcomes of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (OECD, 2010). ← 7 | 8 →

PISA underlines, in particular, the need for many advanced countries to tackle educational underperformance so that as many members of their future workforces as possible are equipped with at least the baseline competencies that enable them to participate in social and economic development. Otherwise, the high social and economic cost of poor educational performance in advanced economies risks becoming a significant drag on economic development. (p. 3)

The OECD (2010) goes on to quantify the enormous economic cost of educational underachievement. Its economic growth projection estimates that even minimal improvements in the educational performance of socioeconomically disadvantaged students would result in huge long-term savings for member countries.


X, 280
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
collaboration complexity educational equity prosperity development
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2013. 280 pp.

Biographical notes

Robert A. DeVillar (Volume editor) Binbin Jiang (Volume editor) Jim Cummins (Volume editor)

Robert A. DeVillar was educated in the United States, Spain, and Mexico. His broad experience in private sector international management and university administrative leadership has complemented his international teaching and research endeavors. DeVillar publishes in diverse fields, including education, social science, and business. Binbin Jiang received her education in China and the United States. She has over 25 years of experience in teaching, research, and educational administration spanning eight countries. Her research and publications focus on diversity, international education, teaching English learners, and leadership preparation. Jim Cummins is a professor at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on literacy development in contexts of linguistic diversity. He is the author (with Margaret Early) of Identity Texts: The Collaborative Creation of Power in Multilingual Schools. (2011).


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