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Achieving Equity in Education: What Can Schools Do?

26 October 2010
: Anonyme
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We've noted the different patterns of achievement for different students for over 40 years. Poverty, ethnicity, race and gender may be correlated with lower achievement but they are not the causes of lower achievement. We know much more about how people learn and about what good teaching entails yet equitable outcomes for all students remains an elusive goal. 

More students learn best and learn most when they are interested in the work they are asked to do; when they know what good work looks like and they receive both encouragement and feedback that rewards effort and points the way to improvement. While more affluent children may be successful in spite of their school experience children from poorer homes or neighbourhoods are more likely to depend on schools for their academic success.

I detect a growing public debate about the purpose and nature of education reflected in films such as Waiting for Superman, The Race to Nowhere and books by Daniel Pink, Malcolm Gladwell, and Sir Ken Robinson. Several questions have emerged within the public discourse:

Does the curriculum inspire good teaching? Do assessment schemes encourage or discourage students? What new ideas about the form and function of schools are worth exploring? What innovations in teaching and learning show promise?

It's time that we set our sights on high achievement for all students. Students don't ask for work to be made easy. They want their studies to mean something; to do work that is worth their time and effort.

There are many pockets of innovation within the education practice and research communities: research on gaming as a mode of learning; multi-literacies including multimedia; closing the widening distance between in school and out of school learning and the general idea that the current model of schooling fits a 19th century rather than a 21st century context. What is driving these developments? Are there intractable education problems that might be informed by innovation? What do we not know how to do that might benefit from new ideas? Can innovation and systemic improvement occur together, how might they interact for larger scale benefit?

We can no longer afford the lost potential of school failure. If we compel children and youth to go to school, we must be responsible for what happens to them when they get there. Anything less is unjust and an enormous waste of human potential. What do you think we should do? 

I love the questions that you

I love the questions that you pose here. They help to move the conversation outwards, beyond what currently exists. But I was most taken by your title. The terms "education" and "school" are often used synonomously, but you separate them here, suggesting that schools are part of the educational life in a community, but not the entire enterprise. This is important, as it opens up possibilities for looking at the educational potential that exists outside the walls of the school, and at "technologies" and resources that can be integrated into schools as they are currently organized and constituted. Schools have a role to play in education, but we need to start thinking beyond the walls of the schoolhouse for a more expansive view of how communities, themselves, can become more attuned to other learning opportunities. I think that, in the process, we can begin to look at school improvement in new and exciting ways.