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date: 12 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews research on the history of inequality in education. Across the globe and since the advent of formal schooling, children from wealthier families have had access to more education, and more costly education, than their less affluent peers. More physically and intellectually advantaged children have also, on average, had greater educational opportunities than their less fortunate peers. Yet within this general historic truth lies considerable variation in terms of how, to what extent, and by what political justification educational inequalities have existed and persisted. Historians have sought to explain variations in inequality in education across time and place and to situate those inequalities within a larger sociohistoric context. One overarching finding from this large and varied body of research is that reform of school systems’ organization and practices is frequently a necessary but insufficient strategy in reducing inequalities in education.

Keywords: inequality, tracking, segregation, disability, intelligence testing, educational access, history

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