Martin Levinson

Equity Matters
Dr Martin Levinson
University of Exeter
Equity issues with regard to
minority / marginal groups
Global context: What are the issues facing
teachers and education policy-makers?
• 101 million children out of school
• 50% of whom are from minorities
• (Data from 2009 report commissioned by
Contextual issues
• In developing countries in Asia and Africa
access identified as central issue;
• In Europe overcrowded classrooms,
dilapidated buildings, poor teaching and
language barriers identified as main
barriers to the education of children from
minority groups.
Some issues highlighted in ‘Equity Matters’, EI
commissioned study, 2010-11
Ethnocentric curricula
Linguistic issues
Discrimination – institutional and
structural, as well as from other children
• Access
• Under-achievement
Contextual issues (Europe)
• In Europe Roma groups identified as those most
at risk. Access - in many cases such as in
Kosovo or Turkey, enrolment in schools is
impeded by problems in civil registration.
• In numerous other cases in Europe, such as in
the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia,
Romania, Serbia, or Slovakia, Roma children
are placed in special schools with very low
standards of education.
Education needs to be considered against wider
socio-economic and political landscapes
• In certain countries rhetoric by certain
politicians and sections of media against
certain groups.
• Crimes perpetrated against those groups
sometimes pass without any prosecutions.
• Children from minority groups more likely
to be more economically deprived.
Cultural discourse being overshadowed by
economic discourse
• Focus of policies on connection between
education and employment.
• Minority groups may have different
outcomes and pathways in mind – e.g.
Roma and migrant involvement in specific
jobs / sectors, that may also relate to
cultural identity
• Disengagement in schools from children
Low achievement – low expectations
• Roma children, in particular, are more
likely to be placed in special schools.
• This a means of social segregation for
apparent educational reasons.
• Issues of provision. Cuts e.g. in Ireland
• Also question of who wants segregation?
Segregation / Integration
European ‘crisis’ – how to turn certain
minority groups into ‘good citizens’?
e.g. Merkel – Cameron speeches –
But e.g. in UK – at same time as arguing for
integration, encouragement of
opportunities for privatisation taken up
mainly by single faith schools.
Example of resistance to
• Governments often place obstacles in the
way of mother tongue or multilingual
Policy perspectives
• ‘The ultimate aim is to get Traveller
children socially included and educated.
Our prime aim is attendance and inclusion.
We want these children to be part of
mainstream society. We don’t want them
to lose their culture, which is highly valued
in schools. It’s inclusion we’re after.’
• Head of Traveller Education, DFE.
Considering matters from the perspectives
of minority group members
• Rights of individual and rights of group
• Individual aspiration v. Cultural identity
And what do the communities
• “You look around here - you see many
who could not read or write if their lives
depended on it. Fred, Henry . . and
they’re all doing very well, thank you very
much.” (Jack, 30s)
• “ We just get by as a group. In my own
family they rely on each other. Take my
niece – she’s eight years of age. Her
father and mother get letters and say,
“Mary, read that.” And Mary reads it. If
they need stuff typed up, someone does it
. . There’s always somebody to do your
reading and writing. But when it comes to
personal letters, it’s not so easy.” (Sally,
Diversity within diversity
• Minority groups are no more
homogeneous than mainstream groups
• There is diversity within them – regarding
e.g. class and gender.
• So we need to refine the way we consider
minority groups.