Education Equity Where do we begin with?
Education Equity – Where do we begin with?
To learn, children and adolescents need to feel safe and supported. Educators in successful high-poverty schools have long recognized the critical importance of providing a healthy, safe, and supportive classroom and school environment.
This means all forms of safety and security while at school — food if hungry, clean clothes if needed, medical attention when necessary, counseling and other family services as required, and most of all, caring adults who create an atmosphere of sincere support for the students’ well-being and academic success. When students who live in poverty experience comprehensive support that works to mitigate the limiting forces in their lives, the likelihood for success is greatly enhanced.
Education equity is at the student level rather than the demographic level because demographics only exist on paper. Every student experiences commonality and difference — what’s shared (a student needing knowledge) and what’s distinct (urban, rural, white, black, male, female). This never stops. We can revise our schools, curriculum, pedagogy, and technology until it is inclusive, fair, and accessible to every student, but that ongoing effort continues to represent a kind of basement for our goals.
The work before us, then, may not be to level an academic playing field for which there is no even, but rather to create new terms for why we learn, how, and where — and then change the expectation for what we do with what we know.
To begin with, CfC Pakistan recently won a bid for ten year project as an Education Management Organization (EMO) from the Education and Literacy Department of Sindh for their ‘Sindh Basic Education Program‘ in collaboration with USAID. We have been entrusted with complete management of two government schools in Khairpur and Sukkur. We are the first organization to have won this bid from Government of Sindh which is helping in expanding the model of Compassionate School Network to interior Sindh. Our vision for these schools is to ‘to create an institution that provides premium quality education to students through building a compassionate learning environment’.
Our task is to rebuild from the basement and maintain the puzzle of individuality by:
• Creating a curriculum that provides a common language for knowledge without homogenizing the nuance of that knowledge.
• Designing learning models that are inherently inclusive regardless of access to technology.
• Establishing authentic functions for family members and communities who may speak a completely different language.
It is a universal fact that as individuals, we work to separate ourselves — as children, often based on image; and as adults, often based on income, where we choose to live, what we drive, the smartphone we carry, and what we do “for a living.” But each expression of self, gender, native language, race, sexuality, socioeconomic level, and so many others is also an opportunity for disparity that works to undermine the function of education.
For us as an education management organization, it is easy to see equity in education as a matter of fairness, access, and inclusion, but that’s only the case if what’s being fairly accessed is a system of teaching and learning that’s fluid, responsive, dynamic, neutral, alive, and able to meet the needs of an increasingly global population. For an industry struggling to get every student reading on grade level, this may be a bit much.
We are aware that under-resourced schools face many challenges that are difficult. However, we believe that they can be conquered with sufficient time, dedication, and resources. Above all, success with these challenges stems from a belief in the potential of students and staff to achieve victory despite the odds.
The barriers that have to be overcome are deeply unfair, and political efforts must be made to reduce educational and socioeconomic inequities. But our students cannot wait for that to occur. They need help now, and schools need to embark on the path to turnaround sooner rather than later. Our plan of action is to define success in phases, define tasks as one of ethical and moral responsibility, create a compelling school identity, network with others on a similar mission and engage and empower communities in meaningful roles in schools. Wish us luck!