Children and young people from the lower social classes in Serbia do not have equal chances to successfully educate themselves, realize their potentials and give full contribution to society, was said at panel discussion dedicated to inequalities in education. The discussion was organized to present a new issue of the internet platform for monitoring the social situation in Serbia MONS (www.mons.rs).
According to Danilo Vukovic from SeConS, assistant professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Belgrade, the Serbian education system is closed at several key points for children from lower social classes. “They rarely attend preschool education and don’t receive support from a state that their families can not provide them, they rarely enroll in secondary schools that are leading to faculties, they rarely enroll in faculties and graduate” explained Vukovic. The education process itself deepens inequalities, as the process of learning has moved from school to the family home. Vuković pointed out that children are increasingly going to private classes, while those lower socio-economic status less use additional and private lessons, less often learn foreign languages, go to music school or practice sports.
As a result, lower-class children have a greater chance of doing poorly-paid jobs, in poverty and in social exclusion. As the participants of the discussion pointed out, in the not so distant past, our educational system played precisely the opposite role: it opened the channels of social mobility for the children of workers and peasants, while today there are no adequate mechanisms for this. For example, a young person in Serbia whose parents have elementary education today has even 79 times less chance of completing a faculty than a parent whose parents have high education.
Lara Lebedinski, a researcher at the Foundation for the Advencement of Economics, FREN said that investing in early childhood development is very important because investment in pre-school education has the highest rate of return through growth in gross domestic product and economic development. Serbia allocates 0.43% of GDP to pre-school, while the average in the 19 most developed EU countries is 0.5%. Also, coverage of children up to 5 years of pre-school education in Serbia is 66%, while this percentage in the EU reaches as much as 85%. Lebedinski pointed out that the biggest problem is that in our country the poorest children are hot covered by pre-school education, and it would be the most helpful in alleviating inequalities that emerge from their socio-economic situation.
Vitomir Jovanovic, a researcher at the Center for Educational Policies (CEP), spoke about the importance of education for poverty reduction in Serbia, saying that the completion of high school almost doubles the risk of poverty. In addition, according to Jovanovic, the socio-economic status of children is in direct correlation with the success at international examinations of knowledge such as PISA testing, success at final exams and continuing of education. Children of lower socio-economic status have less opportunity to develop their own intellectual capacities, and it is therefore important to develop support mechanisms for their further education, from pre-school to university.
As the MONS authors showed in the first issue, high inequality is bad for economic growth and its sustainability. One of the causes of very high inequality in the distribution of income in Serbia are unequal opportunities and opportunities for education.