"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Friday, November 29, 2013

Equity in Education

The top performing nations in the world in education pride itself by providing quality education to all. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports, "The highest performing education systems across OECD countries combine quality with equity". Ironically, most countries look at education as a way to become better than the rest. Education is seen as a tool to get ahead in society. This objective falls so far away from society's main goal of preparing its youngest members. Inequity leads to a school's failure and society pays heavily for this grave mistake in the future. Common sense dictates that schools with greater needs require more support and attention. Instead, the most effective teachers are attracted to schools with better resources and well prepared students. Facilities are usually updated in elite schools attended by children of the privileged class. Special programs are even provided for children who demonstrate high academic ability at a young age while academically unprepared kindergarten children are thrown into dilapidated schools with inexperienced and untrained teachers. With misplaced priorities and a total disregard for equity, one should not be surprised if schools are failing.

In America, the states can be graded according to how the government allocates or distributes resources for education. In terms of equity, quite a number of these states receive a failing grade:

Above figure captured from

The map above is indeed disconcerting. Eduardo Porter writes in the New York Times' article "In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich":
The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students,according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D.nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.
Andreas Schleicher, who runs the O.E.C.D.’s international educational assessments, put it to me this way: “The bottom line is that the vast majority of O.E.C.D. countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.” The inequity of education finance in the United States is a feature of the system, not a bug, stemming from its great degree of decentralization and its reliance on local property taxes.
Looking at education as a "Race to the Top" is a wrong way to address problems in basic education. "No Child Left Behind" sounds a lot better if only the government looks at how to level the playing field and not focus so much on test scores and closing schools.

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