We Are Biased

Meritocracy is often used in education for some perceived efficiency. Sadly, part of that efficiency entails a selection process that provides society with laborers of differentiated skills. Not everyone can be a CEO. The Philippines' K to 12 has a tracking program in senior high school and during my basic education years, students are divided into sections based on their past performance. Obviously, there is a question of efficiency versus equity. If schools only focus on how much their students actually learn, there is no question that equity beats efficiency. As standardized exams show, "High- and low-poverty classes that used ability-based reading groups “almost always” scored lower on average than those that used them “hardly ever” on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress."

Above copied from EdWeek

The problem with selection or "tracking" in schools is this. We are biased whether we admit it or not. A recent experiment involving psychology students and preservice teachers in Switzerland demonstrates that when given the opportunity to place students, we tend to rate students of higher socio-economic status higher than those who come from less privileged families:

Above copied from

A former principal in the elementary school my children attend is now touring the country championing equity in education. One of his recent posts on Facebook is shown below:



The question is whether there is a difference between labeling students according to the abilities they have or labeling them according to the skills we think with which they need support. My fear is that our bias still holds whenever we group students. It is a sad reality.


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