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Does Poverty Affect A Child’s Performance In School?

The stress of growing up poor can affect a child’s brain development starting before birth. It matters where you are born and how you are brought up. Researchers have long suspected that children’s cognitive abilities are linked to their socioeconomic status,[1] particularly for those who extremely poor. The reasons are not definite, although stressful living conditions, poor nutrition, access to quality education are among the main possible factors. 

Beyond education-related deficiencies, low-income children can experience inadequacies with physical and cognitive development and disparities regarding access to healthcare and to key resources that help ensure success. Furthermore, data show that low-income students are more likely to drop out of high school than those who are high-income.[2

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is aware of the correlation between social-economic status and students’ performance. The educational disadvantage, whereby how much students’ parents earn and where they go to school correlates with student achievement. This is not a local finding but a global phenomenon experienced by other education systems around the world, according to PADU.[3] 

With data from students receiving the government’s KWAPM financial aid, evidence consistently demonstrates that students from poor or low-come families are less likely to perform as well as students from middle-income or high-income households. Schools that are Band 1 and 2 are high-performing schools and they have less than a third of their students receiving the KWAPM financial aid. On the contrary, more than half of the students attending Band 6 or 7 schools which are under-performing schools received financial aid.

Source: Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013- 2025

The vicious cycle of poverty must be stopped and education is perhaps the only way out of it. The good news is that socioeconomic status or income is not the only defining factor in a child’s performance at school. Studies showed that there are 7 main factors that significantly contribute to a student’s performance.[4] Perhaps more work can be done to enhance the other factors in order to ensure that children from low-income families have a better chance of crafting a brighter future. 

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Explore our sources:

  1. SEANUTS Study Group. (2019). Low socioeconomic status and severe obesity are linked to poor cognitive performance in Malaysian children. Link.
  2. Ministry of Education Malaysia. (2013). Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025. Link.
  3. Ministry of Education Malaysia, PADU. (2013). Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025. Chapter 3 : Current Performance. Link.
  4. Vivin Vincent Chandran and Caroline Geetha, PROSIDING PERKEM IV. JILID 1, 361-369. (2009). Does Poverty Influence the Performance of Students? A Case in University Malaysia Sabah. Link.

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