Equity and equality in education are often used interchangeably, but it's crucial to understand the difference between the two. Resolving issues faced by disadvantaged students in the classroom requires an understanding of this distinction. While both equity and equality can be beneficial, equity should be the ultimate goal for educators because it focuses on being fair to individuals based on their circumstances.
Equality is often associated with social issues, as it aims to ensure everyone has the same rights, opportunities, and resources. However, it may not address the specific needs of disadvantaged students. For example, providing each student with a take-home laptop may not be helpful for those who lack internet access at home. Even if a school is equal, some students may still struggle.
In contrast, equity involves providing resources that meet the unique circumstances of each individual. The World Health Organization defines social equity as the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people. Schools that prioritize equity over equality are more attuned to their students' needs and provide tailored resources to help them overcome specific challenges. This approach requires more effort, but it is more effective at resolving disadvantages.
Therefore, while equality is an admirable goal, educators should focus on equity to address the challenges faced by disadvantaged students in the classroom. By understanding and prioritizing equity, schools can better support their students and ensure that all individuals receive the resources they need to succeed.
Inclusive education can be hindered by barriers that affect individuals based on various factors such as race and gender. These issues not only target specific groups but also determine how they are resolved. Most schools focus on horizontal equity, which involves treating individuals assumed to be equal in the same way. However, horizontal equity is only effective in homogeneous schools where every student has the same opportunities in life. In reality, students come from diverse backgrounds and may require individual resources based on their unique needs. Therefore, educators should prioritize vertical equity to ensure that each student receives resources that fit their circumstances.
Poverty is another significant challenge facing equity and equality in education. The majority of disadvantaged students come from under-resourced homes or communities. Limited budgets make it difficult to provide these students with equitable resources. Moreover, under-resourced communities often struggle to retain high-quality teachers, with 62% of high-poverty schools reporting challenges in teacher retention. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort from educators, policymakers, and communities to ensure that all students receive equitable resources and support for their educational success.
Focusing on equity in education is vital to supporting the academic success of all students, not just those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Providing students with resources that fit their individual circumstances creates a positive and inclusive classroom environment. In an equitable society, everyone has an opportunity to succeed, regardless of their original circumstances.
Inclusive and equitable classrooms not only benefit academic achievement but also promote better health and social-emotional development in students. Research has shown that students who feel safe, have fewer experiences of loneliness and bullying, and have exposure to diverse backgrounds perform better academically. Additionally, equitable communities are associated with better health and longer lifespans.
Equity in schools has positive implications beyond the classroom. It is linked to stronger social cohesion, leading to more compassionate and connected communities. It also contributes to long-term economic growth, making it an effective social investment. Prioritizing equity in schools benefits not only students but also their communities and society as a whole.