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Inequalities in educational opportunities and outcomes in secondary schools in Peru

Wed, March 28, 11:30am to 1:00pm, Hilton Reforma, Floor: 2nd Floor, Don Diego 4 Section B


Like many countries in Latin America, Peru has achieved almost universal coverage in primary education and increasing levels (around 80%) for preschool and secondary education. However, overall achievement levels are low and highly unequal (i.e. positively correlated with gender, ethnicity, poverty, maternal education and area of residence), as demonstrated in national and international evaluations, including UNESCO´s regional program and PISA. An important issue for research is whether schools help to reinforce or reduce inequalities associated with the sociodemographic background of students. While there are some studies for Peru suggesting that educational opportunities are unequal in primary schools, there is almost no evidence for secondary education.

As part of the Young Lives longitudinal study, in 2017 we conducted a school survey of secondary students (age 16). When this is linked to individual and family characteristics over time (we have data for these children since they were age one year), our preliminary results show that the wealth index of children at age one year is significantly associated 14 years later with their scores in reading comprehension (r=0.28) and mathematics (r=0.32). Educational opportunities at secondary schools seem to mediate these associations, indicating that pupils with lower wealth and test-scores early in life tend to access schools providing for weaker educational opportunities.

In this paper, we will show evidence that the association between individual and family characteristics and school outcomes (i.e. grade in school and achievement in reading and mathematics) are mediated by school variables. Specifically, we will show data on how school-related variables, i.e. school infrastructure, school composition, teachers’ credentials, time spent learning and availability of equipment and materials are correlated with the outcomes mentioned above, to form an unequal secondary education system. This is partly explained by attending public versus private schools, but there are also deep inequities in educational opportunities within the public system, for example, between urban and rural schools, and between schools in more and less poor districts.


Cueto, S., Guerrero, G., Leon, J., Zapata, M. & Freire, S. (2014). The relationship between socioeconomic status at age one, opportunities to learn and achievement in mathematics in fourth grade in Peru. Oxford Review of Education, 40(1), 50.72.

Cueto, S., Miranda, A., León, J. and Vásquez, M. C. (2016). Education Trajectories: From Early Childhood to Early Adulthood in Peru. Country Report. University of Oxford: Young Lives.

Glewwe, P., S. Krutikova, and C. Rolleston (2014) Do Schools Reinforce or Reduce Learning
Gaps between Advantaged and Disadvantaged Students? Evidence from Vietnam and Peru,
Working Paper 133, Oxford: Young Lives.

Rolleston, C., & James, Z. (2012). The role of schooling in skill development: Evidence from young lives in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. Background paper prepared for the
Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2012.

Sparrow, B., and M. Ponce de León (2015) Gaps in Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Development between Public and Private School Children in Peru’s Urban Areas. Privatization in Education, Working Paper 70. Oxford: Young Lives


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