Equity and Equality Are Not Equal

Post date: Apr 25, 2018 6:15:38 AM

By: Carlot C. Orizar

There is a common misapprehension that equity and equality have the same meaning and that they can be used correspondingly, especially when talking about education. But the truth is they can never be the same. Yes, at some point they have their similarities, but the difference between them is crucial.

To start off, let us first define equality and equity. Equality is about sameness, it promotes fairness and justice by giving everyone the same thing. Except we need to take in consideration that it can only work if everyone starts from the same place. On the other hand, equity is about fairness, it's about making sure people get access to the same opportunities. Sometimes our differences especially in socio economic status, creates barriers to participation.

Each notion carries unspoken fundamental assumptions on what is “fair” as they relate to the types of schools children should attend. Each notion also carries implications about how students should be treated and how resources should be distributed. A common understanding of educational equality is that schools should offer all students the same education. This way all students will have an equal chance. Disregarding the fact that they came from two different socio economic statuses.

A common understanding of educational equity is that all children should be given the education they need to achieve certain outcomes. Both of these ideas make sense at first glance, and they clearly connect to ideas of fairness. Though, when these ideas are used to orient policy approaches, undesirable consequences might arise.

My big question in this is, should schools treat each student equally? Or should schools seek to “level the playing field” for those who are disadvantaged? Some may argue that schools are doing too much for the disadvantaged, and thereby creating new disadvantages for other students. For example, students who came from a poor family are given more attention and privileges, however, others argue that schools need to provide extra help to the underprivileged, since the privileged already have advantages.

In conclusion, here’s where equity comes in. The students who are furthest behind most often low-income students require more of those resources to catch up, succeed, and eventually, close the achievement gap. Giving students who come to school lagging academically the exact same resources as students in higher income schools alone will not close the achievement gap. But making sure that low-income students have access to exceptional teachers and that their schools have the funding to provide them with the kind of high-quality education they need to succeed will continue us on the path toward narrowing that gap.

As to what Blair Mann said, “Equality has become synonymous with “leveling the playing field.” So let’s make equity synonymous with “more for those who need it.”