The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which works to “promote the policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world,” published a Policy Briefing titled, “Ten Steps to Equity in Education.” The briefing (which you can read in its entirety here) lays out some of the basic policies necessary for achieving equity in education, as well as some fundamental elements of equity.
For example, the briefing explains two dimensions essential to equity in education:
- Fairness — defined as making sure that personal and social circumstances – for example gender, socio-economic status or ethnic origin – should not be an obstacle to achieving educational potential
- Inclusion — defined as ensuring a basic minimum standard of education for all – for example that everyone should be able to read, write and do simple arithmetic.
The briefing goes on to provide two charts (on the left, click to view larger versions) outlining the state of equity as reflected in achievement in math and reading. The statistics are truly sobering. For example, in the US, a student from a low SES (socio economic status) background is nearly 4 times as likely to have low math achievement as a student from a high SES background. The eye opener is that such disparity is not consistent around the globe. For example, in Iceland, a student from a low SES background is “only” twice as like to have lower math achievement than a peer with a high SES background.
So why the difference?
Proponents for pursuing equity in education suggest such disparity is a matter of policy and practice aimed at achieving fairness and inclusion. (Perhaps the yawning gap between policies that achieve fairness and inclusiveness in practice and those that don’t is the “achievement gap” we should actually be talking about.)
Below are OECD’s “10 Steps to Equity in Education” that provide something of a roadmap for achieving equity. As you read the below list, you’ll notice recommendations that are in direct conflict with current ed policy practices and some that are altogether absent from our current edu-discourse. These 10 steps may provide a big picture litmus test for looking at policies being proposed, passed and implemented at both state and federal levels.
10 Steps to Equity in Education
1. Limit early tracking and streaming and postpone academic selection.
2. Manage school choice so as to contain the risks to equity.
3. In upper secondary education, provide attractive alternatives, remove dead ends and prevent dropout.
4. Offer second chances to gain from education.
5. Identify and provide systematic help to those who fall behind at school and reduce year repetition.
6. Strengthen the links between school and home to help disadvantaged parents help their children to learn.
7. Respond to diversity and provide for the successful inclusion of migrants and minorities within mainstream education.
8. Provide strong education for all, giving priority to early childhood provision and basic schooling.
9. Direct resources to the students with the greatest needs.
10. Set concrete targets for more equity, particularly related to low school attainment and dropouts.
Image: monosodium via Morgue File