Poverty and the lack of education loop

Poverty and the lack of education loop

I can’t remember how many times I have written about it in this column: In Turkey, a class-based society is being created through education. 

Because equal opportunities do not exist in education, the children of poor families, which are almost all uneducated, are bound to be uneducated (or badly educated), and at the same time, bound to poverty.  
Today, I am in a position to prove my point because I have figures that illustrate the direct relationship between poverty and a lack of education, as well as between failure in exams and having a poor/uneducated family background. 

Experts from the Department of Data Analysis, Monitoring and Evaluation from the General Directorate of Assessment, Evaluation and Examination Services of the Education Ministry have prepared a comprehensive report based on the results of the Transition from Primary to Secondary Education (TEOG) examinations for the 2014-2015 school year. It can be read via: http://odsgm.meb.gov.tr/test/analizler/docs/Ortak-Sinavlar-Arastirma-Raporu.pdf

Let us first review the relationship between exam success and the incomes of families. From a total of 1,094,000 students, 2.8 percent of families have an income level of “very bad,” while 22.4 percent have “low income.” Some 40.1 percent have medium income leves, 23 percent have a good income and 1.7 percent have a very good income. 

When you review the scores, you see how the increase in the income level of the family increases the child’s success. The 25 percent at the bottom are very bad, and low-income earners; the 25 percent at the top enjoy good or very good financial statuses. The difference between the exam results of the two groups is very striking. 

Of course, don’t forget that those who score better on the exam attend relatively better and more distinguished high schools; in subsequent years, the difference between these two groups will widen much more, producing a life-long difference.  

Now, let’s take a look at the educational background of parents and then their children’s success. Comparing the educational background of fathers and their children’s scores on the TEOG produces similar figures when we compare the educational background of mothers and children. 

The most populous group among parents are primary-school graduates. Their children will attend school for seven more years and will become high-school graduates, but their situation in the social sense will not change much; unfortunately, very few of these children will lead a better life than their own parents. 

There are some other interesting results. For years, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been recommending, at very opportunity, families to have at least three children, but 62.8 percent of children who sat the exam come from two-sibling homes. If we add the 11.4 percent of single-child families, then the rate increases substantially. 

More interestingly, the exam scores of children coming from single-child families are significantly higher than the children coming from more crowded families. 

The last interesting point is that contrary to the general assumption, crowded classrooms in middle schools do not affect the success of the child so much. But again, the ideal number of students in a classroom is said to be 10 to 20. 

As you can see, this is a vicious circle. A lack of education creates poverty; poverty creates a lack of education and this situation is carried on from generation to generation in the same family. 

Maybe the state cannot make the poor prosper overnight, but by raising the quality of free education to everybody, it may succeed in decreasing poverty in one generation – in other words, breaking this vicious cycle.