What Is Educational Equity, and Why Does It Matter?

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When it comes to education, equity means that every student is provided with the resources necessary to learn the fundamental labor skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic that are required for basic employment. The success of education in a society is measured not by the amount of money invested in it but by the results it produces.

Achieving educational parity has become much more difficult as a result of the continuous crises in public health and the economy. Schools were forced to close throughout a large portion of the country. The fact that many families with low incomes do not have access to WiFi connections or the necessary computer equipment for long-distance schooling contributed to the worsening of racial inequalities. According to the findings of a research conducted by McKinsey, as a consequence of this, pupils of color were three to five months more behind in mathematics than white students, who were one to three months behind.

Education disparities have the same effect as recessions do on the rate of economic growth. Students will not be able to perform to their full potential if they are not provided with the necessary educational materials. As a result of their lower income and inability to accumulate money, they are unable to provide for their children’s education at reputable institutions. The cycle of structural inequality, which is harmful to society as a whole, is perpetuated as a result of this.

In search of a definition of educational equity

To ensure that every student has access to the resources necessary to function at a level considered satisfactory, an equitable educational system must be in place.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) identifies two aspects of educational fairness that are intricately connected with one another. These aspects are access and opportunity.

  1. Fairness

It entails taking measures to ensure that one’s personal and societal circumstances do not act as a barrier to reaching one’s educational potential. It is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their gender, nationality, or social standing.

  1. Participation

It guarantees that everyone will get at least the most fundamental level of education. For instance, everyone must to be capable of reading, writing, and doing basic mathematical operations. If there are certain pupils who need further assistance, they should get it.

Even if each and every school district receives the same amount of funds, it is possible that it will not be sufficient to assist all kids in reaching the same level of mastery. Even if equality is preferable to discrimination, it may not be sufficient to ensure true equity.

What Is Educational Equity, and Why Does It Matter?. Source: Freepik.com

Achievement Gap

Inequity in educational opportunities in the United States has contributed to a disparity in academic success across racial groups. According to the findings of a study conducted by Brookings, the average score achieved by kids of color and students of Latinx heritage on standardized examinations was much lower than that of children of White ethnicity.

In a previous analysis, McKinsey determined that the achievement gap, which is driven by unfairness in education, has cost the economy of the United States more than any recession that has occurred since the 1970s. According to another estimate by McKinsey, there would have been a $525 billion increase in the gross domestic product of the United States in 2008 if there hadn’t been an accomplishment gap between the years 1998 and 2008. In a similar vein, if children from families with lower incomes had achieved the same level of educational success as their classmates from families with higher incomes during the same time period, they would have contributed an additional $670 billion to the GDP.

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The Repercussions of Educational Disparities

A level playing field in terms of education is essential for economic mobility. Without it, there would be a disparity in the level of success between different sections in society, which will have a negative impact on the economy. The failure of certain students to acquire the skills necessary to reach their full potential in the workforce contributes to economic disparity, which, in turn, contributes to a gap in wealth.

Others with less financial resources are unable to afford the pricey and prestigious educational opportunities that are available to those with more financial resources. This adds to the phenomenon known as structural inequality, in which institutions, in and of themselves, are a source of inequality. Disparity in education leads to a loss of the income and economic production potential of a society’s lower-income tiers as a direct consequence of this inequity. That has a chilling effect on economic expansion for everyone.

Wealth and Educational Opportunity

A research conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED) in 2018 indicated that education may increase wealth in three different ways.

  1. Households where at least one member has a college degree have higher median incomes

The children will get a head start in life as a result of this. They have access to superior schools and can thus improve the quality of their own education.

  1. The Effect of a Rising Social Status

This happens when a kid is born into a home where neither parent has completed their college education. After the youngster completes their education and receives a diploma, the family’s financial situation improves overall. According to the findings of FRED’s research, this influence contributed to a 20 percentage point increase in the wealth of families. The wealth of families saw a modest increase of 11 percentage points when at least one member of the family had earned a bachelor’s degree or above.

  1. The Effect of Declining Mobilization

Children whose parents did not graduate from college had a drop in wealth that was 10 percentiles, while children whose parents had college educations but did not graduate from college themselves experienced a drop in wealth that was 18 percentiles.

Income and Educational Levels

Income inequality in the United States has worsened as a direct result of educational disparities. Workers who have college degrees earn an average of 84 percent more over the course of their careers than those who simply have high school diplomas. 6 On the other hand, people with master’s degrees or more earn an average of 131 percent more than those who just have a high school diploma.

Despite the obvious economic benefit of having at least some college education, less than half of Americans age 25-34 have completed at least some college. There are ten other nations that rate higher than Canada, including Korea, Russia, and Canada.

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One of the reasons is the high expense of obtaining a higher education in the United States. According to the College Board, the annual tuition at a public state institution ranges between $10,560 for students who live inside the state to $27,020 for those who come from other states. The annual cost of a private education that is not for profit is 37,650 dollars. According to the OECD, the United States spends $30,165 annually on each student who is enrolled in higher education institutions, making it the country that spends the second-most money behind Luxembourg.

Why Equity Matters in Education

How to Achieve Fairness in Educational Opportunities

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests ten different actions that might be taken to make education more equitable. These include the following:

Enhancing the Organizational Structure of the Educational System

To make the structure of educational systems more effective, the first four phases are outlined below. It is the responsibility of the school districts to ensure that each school has the resources it requires to adequately serve its pupils. This encompasses anything from pupils who need special schooling to those who are academically bright.

The educational system commonly categorizes youngsters at a young age into two different tracks: those that go to college and those that lead to vocational training. This practice often constitutes a form of gender, racial, and economic discrimination. Instead, the OECD suggests that tracking should either be postponed or completely done away with.

Those who are not performing up to expectations should get further training in order to “catch up.” This includes programs leading to the GED. In order for vocational employees to be able to succeed in higher-tech industrial environments, they need also get a college degree.

Offering Students a Tailored Learning Experience

The classroom is the focus of the fifth through seventh phases recommended by the OECD. Students should have their education tailored specifically to meet their individual requirements.

  1. Provide assistance to immigrant and minority children so that they may attend regular schools. If it’s necessary, you should provide them with intensive language instruction.
  2. Instead of failing kids, intensive assistance should be given to them in a variety of subject areas. The percentage of students who graduate as a result will rise.
  3. Increase your level of collaboration with parents to win their support for the academic pursuits of their children. In the event that this cannot be done, after-school activities should be organized for the youngsters in question.

A research conducted at the University of Michigan discovered an eleventh option that was determined to be both cost-effective and practical. Researchers sent invites to high school pupils with strong academic performance and poor family incomes. It offered scholarships that would cover all of the expenditures. More than two-thirds of them submitted applications to the institution, in contrast to just 26 percent of students in a control group who were eligible for financial help but did not get targeted mailings encouraging them to apply.

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Directing of resources toward those who have the greatest need

In stages eight through ten, the OECD recommends allocating limited school money to those students who have the greatest need for it. The United States of America takes the opposite approach. According to a survey conducted by the United States Department of Education, 45 percent of high-poverty schools got less state and local financing than what is considered to be the norm for other schools located within their district. Similarly, states with a higher per capita income tend to have higher educational attainment rates.

The eighth step is to place an emphasis on education for young children. The eighth proposal suggests providing financial assistance to children from low-income households so that they may continue their education. Pell Grants are financial aid packages provided by the United States federal government to low-income college students. The tenth step is to establish school objectives for student ability levels and dropout rates, and to concentrate resources on schools that have the lowest results.

Inequality That Is Built-In

Education disparity has also contributed to the problem of structural inequality. It’s possible that children living in places with lower incomes get a less-than-ideal education compared to their counterparts in more affluent communities. According to findings from research conducted at Michigan State University (MSU), the achievement gap in these students’ schools is responsible for 37 percent of the reason for their poorer math scores. There is a structural imbalance that results in impoverished children being forced to attend public schools while children from wealthy families have the financial means to attend private schools of a better quality.

According to William Schmidt, a professor of statistics and education at Michigan State University, who participated in the research, “Because of school variations in subject exposure for low- and high-income pupils in our nation, the affluent are growing wealthier and the poor are getting poorer.” It is a fallacy to believe that schools can assist kids overcome the disadvantages brought on by poverty because of the widespread assumption that schools are the great equalizer.

What Is Educational Equity, and Why Does It Matter
What Is Educational Equity, and Why Does It Matter?. Source: Freepik.com

In the context of education, what exactly is the difference between equity and equality?

The term “equality” refers to the equal treatment of everyone, but the term “equity” acknowledges that each person has their own unique set of circumstances and treats them according to their own need.

Because of the existence of inequality in the actual world, it is vital to distinguish between equity and equality. In an ideal society, the concepts of equity and equality would have the same meaning.

What exactly is meant by the term “educational equity gap”?

The term “equity gap” may be used to refer to any kind of educational discrepancy that can be categorized along racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic lines. Equity disparities may also be seen along lines linked to whether or not a person is prepared for college and whether or not they are the first person in their family to attend college. When attempting to identify, locate, and fix equity gaps, the California State University system takes into consideration all of these different criteria.

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