Research ‘quality of being fair and impartial’ (Oxford

Research Essay!1Research Essay (EDUC1103) Malvina Kaur Rekhraj University of Western Australia

Research Essay!2 The Oxford Dictionary defines equity as being a ‘quality of being fair and impartial’ (Oxford Dictionary, n.d.). In an education system, the terms ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ are often used interchangeably because there is a misconception that they both mean the same thing. However, that’s not the case. Equality is the sameness of funding and resources available to a student, whereas equity is the fairness of opportunities and resources available to students of all races and social classes (Masters, 2018). The implementation of an equitable education system is complex and highly contested because there will always be a dispute regarding how government funding and resources are allocated based on individual student needs. However, some countries have tried to make it a key goal in their education system, for example, Australia, Finland, and America. Equality is a concept in which every student, regardless of their racial, social or economic background, receive the same amount of funding and resources to further their education. Equity, on the other hand, refers to a concept where funding and resources that are available to each student is assessed by a needs basis, according to their social, economic and racial backgrounds. Equity ensures that all students are given the opportunity and resources they need to bring them to the same level as their peers, which helps to close the huge achievement gap between privileged white students, compared to low socio-economic and coloured students (Mann, 2014). Students from working-class families get less government funding, they get lesser qualifies teachers and they get segregated to lower class sets (Reay, 2017). On the other hand, students from middle-high socio-economic families get higher qualified teachers, get more government funding per head and they get placed in classes together where they have a better learning environment. The large differences in learning outcomes based on a child’s background is an example of inequity in our education system, and it’s unfortunate that it still exists in the 21st Century (UNICEF, 2014). In an ideal education system, all students would be given the opportunities, resources, and government funding that they need to ensure they reach the level of their peers. Nonetheless, that’s not what’s happening. The system has gotten more and more unfair. “The gap between the rich and the poor is a lot greater than it was even 30 years ago. We’ve got to move back instead of going further in the direction of austerity, which seems to be punishing

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Research Essay!3the poor,” said Diane Reay, Professor of Education at Cambridge University (Ferguson, 2017). The Australian system has become highly result based instead of student development based. Our schools don’t have a level of equality, as shown in NAPLAN results every year, it’s obvious that some schools across the nation do much better than other schools. If our education system can’t develop opportunity, resource and support equality throughout the country, the hope of equity is a far stretch! In Finland, on the other hand, all teachers are highly educated where they need to have written at least a Master’s thesis and have earned a lot of respect. Compared to Australia where a teaching degree is seen as ‘a way out’ for students who aren’t academically literate or hardworking. Finland has an equitable education system where people have the same access to learning regardless of their social status, race, and gender. Quality of teaching across Finland is similar and doesn’t have much variation, primary and secondary teachers in Finland have at least a Master’s degree and have written a Master’s thesis (Dolan, 2018). Finland scored in the top 5 for PISA, an international student assessment due to it’s highly reputable and effective education system (Yates, 2011). Although it is possible to implement the FEM outside of Finland, it has a high chance of failing because the public isn’t ready to invest in the equity of quality within their education system. Equity is the most important thing that makes the FEM work; the willingness of the Finnish public to invest in the quality and equity of the education system. It is not only Australia which has an inequitable education system. America, a country which boasts about their diversity and equality of opportunity, also needs to adopt the concept of equity in order to further their nation’s future. An American educator, Paul Houston, once said that the largest factor that affects SAT scores across the nation each year is the family’s income! He suggested that in today’s America, intellect and hard-work aren’t enough to help a student excel. If parents want their children to achieve success, they need to be wealthy enough to provide an education that yields those results (Masters, 2018). This is the biggest cause of inequity in America, with the second being racial biases and marginalisation of coloured and non-coloured people. This is disheartening because there is no correlation between one’s race or economic status, and their capability to be educated.

Research Essay!4 Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone, without discrimination, has the right to education and that fundamental stages of education should be free (United Nations, n.d.). This means that there should not be any marginalisation or segregation of educational opportunities offered to students based on their wealth or socio-economic status. But this idea isn’t practiced in our education systems. Research has shown that a person’s wealth and level of education have a positive correlation, meaning the wealthier a person is the better their quality of education (Ferguson, 2017). The high-quality education they achieve directly opens up employment opportunities for them which ensures they’ll make a decent living. But what happens to the lower SES students? Cambridge University professor Diane Reay, found in her research that students from working-class families are getting lesser education compare to their middle classed peers, just as it was in the 20th Century. This shows that our governments aren’t doing anything to reduce the gap between educational achievement and social class. Furthermore, she states that “we are still educating different social classes for different functions in society” (Reay, 2017). This further reinforces that our mindset as a society is ignorant, and has not progressed because we can’t appreciate the efforts working class and lower SES students put into their education so that they can lead a better life than their predecessors did. Our schooling system today, in this modern day and age, has more segregation and polarisation than it ever has. The 2009 PISA results show that Indigenous students are approximately two years behind Non-Indigenous students, and four years behind students from wealthier families. Also, it showed that rural area students are almost two years behind students from urban areas (Cobbold, n.d.). These facts reinforce that opportunities for social advancement are not always equal or fair amongst different classes of people, even in our ‘meritocratic and egalitarian’ Australia (Sriprakash, 2018). Meritocracy and egalitarianism in Australia is merely a discourse to conceal the class inequalities and social privileges that are still evident in our education system. Our government’s ‘My School’ website proves that demographics have an impact on resources and educational outcomes, and how there is an unequal distribution of resources across schools, as shown in the graphs below.

Research Essay!5 Inequity isn’t only within social classes in Australia, but it is, in fact, a global issue. It is becoming more evident that education levels in developing countries are far lower compared to education levels in developed countries (UNICEF, 2014). This is illustrated in the image below. Gough Whitlam’s campaign had ‘equality of opportunity’ as it’s central focus for education, and he believed that a student’s merit rather than their parent’s wealth should decide who reaps the benefits of government funding. In 1978, the retention rates of the final year of secondary school were 86% in private schools, 43% in Catholic schools and Image: Achievement of Year 9 students in Reading, by parental occupation (Teacher Magazine AU, 2018) Image: (UNICEF, 2014)

Research Essay!630% in public schools (Yates, 2011). There is still a high level of social segmentation and large differences in performance between schools in Australia, and this segmentation is partly a result of geography and also a large number of non-government schools. Many students in the tail end are Indigenous students and/or students who are categorised as low socio-economic status. It is clear that social class, a key driver of social inequality in Australia, continues to profoundly shape educational experience and outcomes (Welch, 2018). Schools and teachers can positively influence the lives of students though productive pedagogies and ensuring that the system is equitable and fair. Everyone deserves a fair go! Most funding for Australian schools come from either state or territory governments, and from there, most go to public schools. Commonwealth money, however, mostly goes to private/independent schools. The distribution is shown in the graphs below. The reason why Image: (Productivity Commission, 2017)Image: (Productivity Commission, 2017)

Research Essay!7Commonwealth government provides a high percentage of funding for Catholic Schools goes back to the post-war baby boom which put significant pressure on Catholic Schools which traditionally schooled children from poor families (ABC News, 2017). The Catholic Schooling system would have collapsed, and government public schools would have had an influx of students who could afford independent/private schooling if the federal government didn’t provide funding; whereas the private schooling system would have thrived due to their fees and other income (Hanrahan, 2018). In 2012, the Gonski scheme was introduced. His original plan was to increase funding to schools who need it the most. Doing so, some schools would lose money but most will end up with more. “The report proposes arrangements that we believe will deliver a funding system that is transparent, equitable and financially sustainable,” he said (Gonski, 2012). This year, our education ministers have proposed a new scheme called the ‘parental income-funding model’, where parental tax will determine the amount of funding each student, and their school gets (Robinson, 2018). This model hopes to close the achievement gap between the highest and poorest achieving students in Australia, by giving students the opportunity and resources they need to succeed (Morrison, 2018). The government also said there will be $1.2 billion put into increasing education levels in rural and remote areas, and underperforming schools across Australia (Robinson, 2018). Maybe this is the stepping stone to a more equitable and fair education system in Australia. Personally, I believe that the Commonwealth should not put such a high percentage of their funding towards independent and Catholic fee-paying schools. These schools don’t need the funding because their high fees and large support base from wealthy and high SES community is enough to provide students with all the resources they require. Instead, the Commonwealth should help State and Territory governments improve the education levels in public and less fortunate schools across Australia, because ultimately, the higher educated our population is, the better the economy and success of our nation will be! Government funding could be used to ensure every person in Australia has the opportunity to attend school and attain an education. This will improve their employability, and therefore, their quality of life,

Research Essay!8which eventually will reduce the percentage of poverty, homelessness and unemployability in a developed, first-world country like Australia. The concept of equity in the educational system is often out of the school’s hand because it depends greatly on the government and curriculum. As long as social and economic segregation prevails in our system, there will be a continual disparity between the amount of funding a school receives and the amount of funding a school needs. Isn’t it fair to take government money away from people who already have money, and instead invest that in the public who are struggling? Isn’t that what our country values? These are not only questions for our education system but also questions for our politicians and economists to answer and finally provide transparency to citizens.

Research Essay!9References (2014). Retrieved from (2017). Retrieved from ALP (Australian Labor Party) (1972). Policy speech. Canberra: Australian Labor Party Cobbold, T. Save Our Schools Australia: What is Equity in Education?. Retrieved from Ferguson, D. (2017). ‘Working-class children get less of everything in education – including respect’. Retrieved from Hanrahan, C. (2018). Here’s how our schools are funded — and we promise not to mention Gonski. Retrieved from Mann, B. (2014). Equity and Equality Are Not Equal – The Education Trust. Retrieved from Masters, G. (2018). What is ‘equity’ in education?. Retrieved from McCarthy, C. ; Kenway, J. (2014). ‘Introduction: understanding the re-articulations of privilege over time and space’. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 12(2), 165–76

Research Essay!10Robinson, N. (2018). Private schools to gain billions under new parental-income funding model. Retrieved from Welch, A. (2018). Education, change and society (4th ed., Chapter 5). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press Yates, L. (2011). Rethinking knowledge, rethinking work. In L. Yates, C. Collins ; K. O’Connor, Australia’s Curriculum Dilemmas. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. (Ch.2)


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