chapter  2
SOCIOECONOMIC DIFFERENCES IN CHILDREN’S EARLY COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT AND THEIR READINESS FOR SCHOOLING
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As society becomes increasingly complex, access to high-level occupations is becoming increasingly dependent on a high level of education. This simple fact has created a profound dilemma that all modern democracies are beginning to recognize. On the one hand, equality of opportunity is a major cornerstone of their political philosophy. On the other hand, opportunities for success in the public school system are clearly not equal. Indeed, one of the most robust findings of modern educational sociology is that children’s success in the public schools is a function of the level of educational attainment of their parents. This generalization holds true no matter what school subject or what country one looks at. Figure 2.1 displays the scores of young adults in the age range from 18 to 25 in several different countries as calculated from the International Adult Literacy Survey (Wilms, 1999). As may be seen, for all countries, the reading levels that young people attain in the present generation are a function of the years of schooling that their parents received in the previous generation. As may also be seen, the size of this effect-which is reflected in the slope of the Socioeconomic Status (SES) gradient-varies considerably from one country to the next.