By Vedika Patel | 21st April, 2023
Should we prioritize equality or equity in our educational system? Learn the difference between the two and why equity is crucial for students' success in this article.
“Equality is leaving the door open for anyone who has the means to approach it; equity is ensuring there is a pathway to that door for those who need it.”
— Caroline Belden
Setting The Stage
Have you ever paid any heed to the cacophony of voices around you? – uprising for various ideas, fighting for rights and while all this sounds different, I hear (and maybe you will too!) a subtle underlying idea – Equality! If we listen to these conversations at a deeper level, they are all about equality – be it students in the class, couples, nations, LGBTs, or varied religions – they are all on a quest to be equal. However, what is being equal really, I wondered.
Equality and Human Rights Commission defines equality as “Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents.” That sounds good, that we want to ensure that each human has equal opportunities. But something didn’t strike a chord with me.
Looking around, Equality was needed – there is so much disparity in the world, divides of all types – the rich and poor, educated and uneducated, the list of haves and have-nots is endless, so how do we even try to balance this and create a better and equal world for all.
Research (Paul, 2019) illustrates that when “you come in the classroom as a teacher and you distribute equally pencils and erasers to all students in classrooms. Pencils are distributed equally to all students in the classroom without distinction. Every student with the same number of pencils and erasers. This is equal distribution.” Whereas (Paul, 2019) very simply states Equity as when the teacher “Ask two students one by one what they can choose between pencils and erasers, Give students what they have selected or chosen; Explain to students that you have given students what they requested and needed” Is a true sense of Equity in the classroom.
What Do We Actually Need?
But the question really is whether we need equality, that provides each unique individual the same opportunities irrespective of how much they really require, OR do we—as a society—require equity?
I’m sure you all have plants at home, don’t they look so lovely, and luscious? Do you water them all the same? Isn’t it worth pondering?
Equity is all about ensuring that people get access to the same opportunities BUT depending on their distinguishable requirements and recognizing the fact that not all of us start at the same place or time. Based on this, equity believes in making adjustments to what is being provided to ensure that everyone receives the same end product.
Putting it in the context of education, we often find hear teachers following and being told to follow the maxim of treating everyone fairly. Though, practically, is it really helpful or even possible?
A modern classroom is a reflection of a mini society, with each student coming from different backgrounds, religions, different abilities along with their own areas of strengths and weaknesses. If embodying equality, the low-achievers won’t get the extra support they need wherein their doubts and basics are properly cleared with extra scaffolding, whereas the higher-achievers will be stuck with the same level of questions instead of developing their higher order abilities. Schools aren’t truly unleashing the potential of the students nor are they producing their best results, because somewhere down we have been so focused on Equality = sameness that we lost Equity = Fairness.
Why Even Do We Need Equity In Schools?
Equity doesn’t just bring up the academic levels of the students, but by scaffolding their needs by allocating appropriate resources based on their needs, it also has seemed to show positive effects on many other aspects of a student’s life.
According to the research (Waterford.org, 2020), “Equity can also strengthen a student’s health and social-emotional development. In a study involving over 4,300 students in Southern California, the children who felt safer, less lonely, and reported less bullying also had higher diversity levels in their classes.
Being equipped to promote diversity and provide for students from all backgrounds makes for an environment where students feel comfortable and have better emotional regulation” I would say in the current educational system where all the students are forced to go through the same curriculum, at the same pace, in the same way, the least an educational institute can do is to provide equity – to ensure that the individual gaps are filled based on individual’s needs.
Which Really Is Better?
Both equity and equality are important concepts in schools and life, but they refer to different things and serve different purposes.
Equity ought to be the guiding principle in schools because it helps to ensure that every student has access to the resources and assistance they require to succeed. This incorporates offering extra help for understudies who come from impeded foundations, for example, the individuals who are low-pay, have inabilities, or are English language students.
Throughout everyday life, both equity and equality are significant, yet the accentuation ought to rely upon the circumstance. Equality is appropriate, for instance, when everyone needs the same things, like access to clean water or air. Equity, on the other hand, is more appropriate in circumstances where individuals have distinct requirements or encounter distinct obstacles, such as in the workplace or when gaining access to healthcare.
So, What Next?
As a student who is entwined in the façade of expectations and achievements, I feel that it is time for change – mindful planning to be done in schools at all levels, so that we don’t produce replicas of each other, but individuals who are truly unique in every sense, keeping their backgrounds, beliefs intact.
In general, the concepts of equity and equality are significant, but equity ought to take precedence in educational settings as well as situations in which individuals have distinct requirements or obstacles.
And I’m not saying this is going to be easy, but if we had to think of easy, Edison wouldn’t have discovered the bulb nor Einstein would have had his ‘Eureka’ moment. But let’s just no more ignore or confuse Equity. Equity is our answer to changing the world for the better.
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