Returning to the question of how education affects

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Returning to the question of how education affects child development, an appraisal of the extensive evidence clearly demonstrates that school, like work, can he either detrimental or constructive for children. It is often both. While most children may gain undeniable benefits from their education, new information is casting light on the often ignored negative aspects of schooling in the lives of many children. Because this dark side of education is not much talked about in the debates about child work, it is worth dwelling on momentarily. When considered in light of recent thinking about child development, the school experience of low-income children in general, and working children in particular, turns out often to be quite detrimental. To begin with, schools in many places do not accomplish even the narrowest academic objective functional literacy expected of them. Other important cognitive objectives, such as critical thinking or problem solving, are commonly neglected altogether. Even in Latin America, one of the richest developing regions, recent research has found that half the children leaving school after five or six years cannot read and write. More serious still is the socioeconomic discrimination hidden inside this general statistic; fully 80 per cent of children from the lower half of the income distribution do not become functionally literate." There is no reason to believe Latin America is a unique case. Some claim that, by detracting from school, child work contributes to this class disparity in school performance. This is undoubtedly true sometimes, but only to a 1 7 limited extent. While low-income school children are more likely to work, and while heavy work schedules have indeed been shown to lower children's school performance, most research suggests that the great class difference in literacy levels is related to home factors (such as parental education levels) and to the almost universal fact that the amount and quality of education available to poor communities is significantly inferior to that offered the better-off sectors of society. And work, per se, can hardly be the problem in those cases where studies have found the school performance of working children (especially those working about 5-10 hours per week) to be superior to that of their peers who do not work at all. If the typical schooling experienced by working children is judged by modern criteria of child development, it would appear to contribute surprisingly little to their personal development. Rarely does education policy and practice consider the diverse nature and needs of different groups of children, build on children's existing capacities and target their special needs, provide a variety of opportunities for learning and for developing children's many competencies, or enlist children's own initiative and participation in planning their own development. And when schools fail even to make their students functionally literate, they not only waste children's time but crucially
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