Different child, different needs: Leveling the playing field for every child to succeed by promoting equity in the classroom

Tuesday, January 26, 2021
“Hi kids, your lessons and assessments will all be conducted online from now on. We have prepared laptops for each one of you. Please make sure you use them. Peter and James, come and get yours first.”

In the real world world, the scenario above would be a perfect example of ‘equality’ where every child is provided with the same resources needed to excel in school but it would be a flawed example of ‘equity’. The reason being that equality and equity are simply not the same.

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Take the two students in the scenario for instance - Peter and James. What if James came from a family that can afford to have Internet at home but Peter does not? What use would a laptop be to Peter if he does not have Internet access at home to utilize the laptop for his lessons and assessments? The laptop would thus be redundant to his learning and school progress. 

We need to understand that students in a classroom are never homogenous. They come from diverse culture and socioeconomic backgrounds and individual experiences that render no two children alike - what may be useful for one child may not work the same for another. 

Image taken from Medium.com

‘Fairness’ and ‘inclusion’ are the two big tenets that fall under the OECD’s concept of equity in education - to break down barriers in the classroom so that every child regardless of their background or circumstances have the same opportunity to succeed.

To promote equity in the classroom, teachers need to first be willing to embrace the diversity that exists among students in a classroom. Here are some great examples of teachers In different countries leveling the playing field for their students:

Embracing diversity for change

Andria Zafirakou is the Global Teacher Prize Winner of 2018. She teaches at a secondary school academy that is located in one of the most ethnically diverse places in the United Kingdom with over 130 languages spoken at its schools. Her students come from some of the poorest families in the country with many having to share a house with other families and some exposed to gang violence in their neighbourhoods as well.

Andria worked with other teachers to redesign the curriculum for all subjects in order to find a way for the lessons to resonate with all her students. She even learned the basics of the different languages spoken at the school to communicate and  establish crucial relationships with students and parents at the school. Her efforts helped her find a way to incorporate what she learned about their lives into the initiatives that are run in the school.

Image taken from Global Teacher Prize.org

For instance, she helped to establish a Somali school school choir and also created an alternative timetable to allow girls-only sports to accommodate for more conservative views held by some students and parents which led to the girls’ cricket team winning the McKenzie Cup. In addition to this, she made special provisions on school days and weekends for booster lessons as well as to allow her students continued access to a quiet place to learn and a computer in school- luxuries which they may not have at home. As a result of her efforts, the school propelled to the top 1 to 5 percent of the country in terms of qualifications and accreditations.

Promoting equity through innovation

In India, Ranjitsinh Disale helped to transform the lives of the young girls at the primary school he teaches in by lowering the barriers to education that existed. Many of his students came from tribal communities where school attendance amongst girls were low and teenage marriages were common. To add to these challenges, the curriculum was not written in the students’ mother tongue of Kannada and thus, most of his students struggled to meet the expected learning outcomes.

Image taken from The Greater India.in

Recognizing these challenges that were in place, he made the effort to learn their mother tongue of Kannada and translated the textbooks into the students’ primary language. He embedded unique QR codes in the textbooks which students could use to access video lectures, audio poems and assignments. The QR coded textbooks also included immersive reader and Flipgrid tools to aid the learning of his students with special needs. This innovative use of QR coded textbooks have since sparked a wider initiative to scale the use of QR coded textbooks nationally.

Ranjitsinh’s efforts have helped to raise the attendance rate amongst girls in his school to 100 percent and made the primary school the best in the district with 85% of students achieving a grade A in annual exams.  His remarkable efforts in promoting and achieving equity in the classroom were recognized and he was awarded the Global Teacher Prize in 2020.

The  examples of Andria and Ranjitsinh are not in isolation. They represent only some of the efforts of teachers all around the world going the extra mile to promote equity in their classrooms. Just as there is diversity among students in classrooms, there are also diverse and creative methods in which teachers can use to promote equity in education.

Find out more about how we can support our children, regardless of background and location, to engage and thrive in today’s ever-changing world at Leaps of Knowledge: The HEART Series. Join us in our first episode, Episode H: Here To Make A Difference!

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Leaps of Knowledge: The HEART Series