At first glance, the ideas of equity and equality might seem pretty similar. Equity and equality are about fairness, right?
However, while the two terms seem nearly identical, equity and equality actually have vastly different meanings.
And educators already know that the difference between equality and equity is extremely important when it comes to policy decisions and education legislation.
At the same time, both equity and equality are essential in today’s classrooms. At a base level, education should be equal. And then, education must include equity to ensure that all students are getting the education they need for positive outcomes.
In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between equity and equality in education and why both are so crucial in education today.
Equity vs. Equality: Fairness vs. Sameness
In the simplest terms, equity refers to an idea of fairness, while equality refers to an idea of sameness.
Equality = Sameness
Essentially, equality in education means that every student gets the same resources and opportunities. This could refer to the same funding for all schools, the same quality of and abundance of materials and facilities, and/or the same quality of instruction.
Equity = Fairness
Equity, though, means that every student gets the kinds of opportunities and resources they need depending on their specific situation.
If a student experiences learning difficulties, for example, that student likely needs more attention and personalized instruction than a student who does not experience learning difficulties. Students with disabilities need particular accommodations, and students who have not had the same opportunities so far might need special help to get on track with other students.
Both Equity and Equality are Crucial in Education
Though the terms are not the same and can have vastly different implications when it comes to education policy and decisions educators make, both equity and equality are important to ensure the best possible outcomes for students.
Importance of Equity in Education
Equity is crucial in classrooms to ensure that all students get to the same positive outcomes regardless of where they started or what unique challenges they might experience.
For educators, this means taking into account each student’s situation, from learning disabilities to cultural differences and everything in between. Educators who operate classrooms equitably understand that their students will not all respond the same to the same instruction.
This can be difficult for educators because it requires extra attention for students who experience specific challenges.
Educators can operate their classrooms equitably by paying close attention to each student as an individual and knowing that some students may require different or more personalized help depending on their past educational experiences and their learning styles and abilities.
Legislation can help with equity in today’s classrooms by allocating funds for Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for students with disabilities, providing resources for educators to provide individualized attention to students who need it, and ensuring that programs exist to help students catch up if they’ve fallen behind.
Importance of Equality in Education
As crucial as equity is in today’s classrooms, equality is also necessary to make sure that students are at least getting the same base level of attention, resources, and opportunities.
Often, educators have to pay close attention to equity when students have come from different backgrounds and were not given equal opportunities at a young age.
Depending on their parents’ level of education and socioeconomic status, children can start their lives right away without equal access to resources. This only continues to cause problems as children begin early education and beyond.
Equality in education is necessary for students to have the same opportunities to start off with positive educational outcomes, and equity helps to make sure those equal opportunities are adjusted to make room for students who might need extra help and attention.
On a legislative level, representatives must promote equality in education by ensuring that all schools get the same level of funding, the same amount of materials, and the same quality of instruction and facilities. As we know, equality has not been achieved in education, especially in the United States.
Unfortunately, resources are often more abundant for students who come from wealthier families, and lines are drawn based on class and race, with students of color achieving lower educational outcomes as a result of unequal opportunities and resources.
And educators have to contend with that lack of equality.
Equality + Equity
So, it’s clear that equity becomes crucial to help offset the lack of equality. But without equality, it’s much harder to achieve equity. And achieving equity often falls on the shoulders of educators who do not have equal resources to begin with either.
Educators know that they need to promote both equality and equity in the classroom, and this does pose a challenge.
But as we continue to seek changes in education legislation and form our classrooms according to the knowledge we continue to gain, hopefully one day we can accomplish both equality and equity in education to the best of our ability.