Exploring equality and equity in education
Exploring equality and equity in education

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Exploring equality and equity in education

2.3 Analysing perceptions of equality

Now take a look at the following activity, where you will look at perceptions of equality.

Activity 2

Timing: Approx. 1 hour 15 minutes

Part A

  1. Look back at your own ideas in Activity 1. Which approach did your ideas most closely match or did you combine elements of both?


The notion of equality of opportunity is prevalent in many policy statements, but has been critiqued for reproducing inequalities in educational outcomes. For example, in this approach, if boys are encouraged to take textiles courses, then their educational performance, even if low, is viewed as of little consequence and little attention is paid to their prior experiences and the understandings which they bring to the study of the subject. However, to ensure that ‘disadvantaged’ students have a fair opportunity of reaching a level of educational achievement which enriches their lives (and enables them to contribute to society) – equality of outcome – then it is argued that it is justifiable to have inequalities in ‘distribution’ (Rawls, 1997). For example, recognition of these students’ prior experiences and interests might lead to a change in approach to the teaching of the subject or the provision of additional materials or teaching.

Part B

  1. Try to find a public expression of an equality policy or statement for an institution where you practise or with which you are familiar. If you have difficulty finding one, you might like to look at the Open University’s policy [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . To what extent do you agree with the interpretation of equality expressed in the policy/statement you found?


Despite almost universal commitment to equality in education, huge differences in the opportunities for, and benefits from, learning remain across the globe. As Wilson and Pickett (2010) comment, with reference to the UK, Western Europe and North America:

Children do better if their parents have higher incomes and more education themselves, and they do better if they come from homes where they have a place to study, where there are reference books and newspapers, and where education is valued.

(Wilson and Pickett, 2010, p. 105)

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