When market forces are introduced into education, equity is at risk.

Janet Downs's picture
Education is a human right but the debate around education is moving from being rights-based to market-based. “Education for all” has become a slogan used to justify selling education as a service.Evidence linking user choice with educational outcomes is mixed, concluded the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). And when academics studied the available research they came to the same conclusion - the evidence was “fragmented and inconclusive”.

The World Bank and the OECD both recognise that education systems which are more equitable perform better. However, equity is missing from the debate about education. Without equity, education systems will be divisive – this is the message from the Privatisation in Education Research Initiative (PERI). Without equity, education systems will not improve learning outcomes.

Every child has a right to an education and the best way to achieve this is to concentrate on equity. In 2008, OECD published a ten-point plan:


1. Limit early tracking and streaming and postpone academic selection.

2. Manage school choice so as to contain the risks to equity.

3. In upper secondary education, provide attractive alternatives, remove dead ends and prevent dropout.

4. Offer second chances to gain from education.


5. Identify and provide systematic help to those who fall behind at school and reduce year repetition.

6. Strengthen the links between school and home to help disadvantaged parents help their children to learn.

7. Respond to diversity and provide for the successful inclusion of migrants and minorities within mainstream education.


8. Provide strong education for all, giving priority to early childhood provision and basic schooling.

9. Direct resources to the students with the greatest needs.

10. Set concrete targets for more equity, particularly related to low school attainment and dropouts.”

The Belgian delegation told the 2012 International Summit on the Teaching Profession*: “Commercialization of education is a serious threat to equity, equality and democracy.” An equitable education system is fair and just – market forces threaten that.

*Closing country and region presentations available as power point presentation downloadable here.
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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 16:48

I think you're referring to 'equity' as Pasi Sahlberg used Janet aren't you? I remember he also referred to this report.

So equity is 'equality' and is in no way related to our usual use of the term equity which relates to accrued capital.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/07/2012 - 08:54

Rebecca - OECD* define equity in education as follows:

"Equity in education has two dimensions. The first is fairness, which implies ensuring that personal and social circumstances – for example gender, socio-economic status or ethnic origin – should not be an obstacle to achieving educational potential. The second is inclusion, which implies ensuring a basic minimum standard of education for all – for example that everyone should be able to read, write and do simple arithmetic. The two dimensions are closely intertwined: tackling school failure helps to overcome the effects of social deprivation which often causes school failure."

*OECD "No more failures - ten steps to equity in education" - linked in original post

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 17:13

Equity does not mean equality, Rebecca. It means fairness or justice.

Equality and fairness are not the same. Sometimes the most unfair thing you can do is to treat people who are different as if they were the same.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 20/07/2012 - 17:24

Thank you Ricky. I expect equity as it is used her comes from the same linguistic root as equality but I accept your better definition of this term in this context.

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