The children of parents with a low income or level of education start school with a disadvantage and do not catch up during their school career, according to new research published by the government’s macro-economic polity unit CPB.
The research also shows that the socio-economic background of the parents says more about a child’s likely school success than whether or not they have ethnic minority parents.
The CPB researchers base their claims on an analysis of existing studies focusing on children’s school careers combined with background information from national statistics agency CBS.
Children with a migrant background start school, on average with a delay in language and arithmetic skills, but catch up as they progress through school, and ultimately differ little from their classmates with a comparable socio-economic background, the researchers found.
However, the report shows that the children of parents with a low income or a low level of education level are lagging behind their peers in terms of maths and language skills at the age of three. And although the difference does not widen from the third year of primary school, they do not decrease either.
‘A skills gap at a young age can be detrimental to opportunities in the jobs market in later life,’ the CPB said. ‘That is why it is important to combat inequality in education at an early stage.’
More research is need to assess what impact early childhood education and special programmes to target disadvantaged children would have on the specific situation in the Netherlands, the researchers said.
Last year, school inspectors warned of the ‘unacceptable’ inequality in Dutch education because children of well-educated parents are scoring better in final primary school exams than children of equal intelligence from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
For example, well-educated parents are more involved in the choice of school and invest money in tutors, homework classes and training in exam techniques. Their children are also more likely to be labelled dyslexic or as having adhd, which also entitles them to extra teaching time, the inspectors said.