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Which countries deliver the most educational opportunity?

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Which countries deliver on the promise of giving students more opportunity than their parents?

In the midst of the Chicago teacher's strike, the subject of educational opportunity is rarely far from the imagination.

"The most important civil rights battleground today is education," New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote Sept. 12, "and, likewise, the most crucial struggle against poverty is the one fought in schools."

But what, exactly, does educational opportunity mean? Last week, the OECD released a study investigating just that. "Education at a Glance 2012" examines potential indicators affecting student performance including per-pupil spending, public and private investment, teacher pay, and tuition costs.

But do metrics per-pupil spending directly translate to dramatic gains in educational opportunity? Not necessarily, according to the OECD study. If it did, the list of nations that provide the most upward mobility might include big spending nations like Luxembourg ($19,324.09 per pupil), Switzerland ($15,644.94 per pupil), Norway ($13,882.88 per pupil), Austria ($12,588.60 per pupil), and the United States ($12,550.24 per pupil).

Instead, the nations with students most likely to exceed their parents when it comes to educational achievement include:

  1. Poland
  2. Portugal
  3. Turkey
  4. Ireland
  5. Hungary
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Greece
  8. Italy
  9. Spain
  10. Slovak Republic

What can educational organizations learn from these data? Simply put, that qualitative factors such as poverty, democracy, and open economies matter -- sometimes more than dollars and cents.

Flickr: James Sarmiento/Flickr, BES Photos/Flickr

[The Guardian]

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Claire Lambrecht

Contributing Writer

Claire Lambrecht has written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Nation, and CBS MoneyWatch. Previously, she taught English as a Teach for America Corps Member and Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She holds degrees from Cornell University, the University of Hawaii, and the Arthur M. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure