UN Report Shows Huge Gap in School Standards among Rich nations.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

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Byline: THE AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

GENEVA - A league table released by the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday revealed sharp differences between rich countries in terms of the educational performance of their schoolchildren.

The gap in educational achievement between the best and worst of the 24 countries in the table can be the equivalent of several years' schooling, the report by UNICEF's Innocenti research centre found.

Children in South Korea, Finland and Canada have less chance of falling behind than their counterparts in Denmark, Germany or the United States, according to the report, entitled "A League Table of Education Disadvantage in Rich Nations."

It highlighted "significant levels" of educational disadvantage within industrialized nations despite their reputation for having advanced and organized schooling systems.

Most of the disadvantages were due to social or economic differences, with a child's home background having a severe impact on their performance at school.

Yet UNICEF also found that few industrialized countries were trying to make up for those inequalities, notably through preschool care for children which would help the growing number of working couples.

"Failure to explore those opportunities would imply that the ideal of equality of opportunity has run out of political steam," the report warned. …