Equal Education for All? It’s a Myth.
Growing up we are all told the same thing: if you work hard enough you will be successful and achieve great things. It’s drummed into our brains that it doesn't matter where you come from, who your parents are or what race, gender, sexuality you are. As long as you work hard, get good grades, and prove your capabilities, you will be rewarded for your hard work.
But that’s far from the truth.
What if you’re a young black boy who is repeatedly told to lower your expectations because black boys don’t become doctors, they become sports stars or manual labourers? Or a young girl being encouraged to concentrate on the Arts because STEM subjects are part of a masculine world and could prove to be too difficult for you? Or you live in a deprived area where your school resources are few, and your teachers only enter you for lower level exams which means you can’t achieve anything beyond a C grade at GCSE?
The idea that our education system promotes an equal education for all is a myth. The existence of private schools is testament to this. They uphold the theory that you can pay for a better education, pay for your success and essentially pay your way through life. Figures show that ‘pupils from private schools are still two and a half times more likely to enter a leading university than their state school colleagues’. This continues to perpetuate stereotypes, holding back minority students while favouring the well-off middle class. We don’t live in a meritocratic society where progress is measured on ability and talent, but rather our society gives a leg-up to the more wealthy. Afterall, nepotism is still alive and well.
How can we say our education system is equal when…
Nearly one in three Oxford colleges failed to admit a single black British A level student in 2015.
Seven of the 24 universities in the more selective Russell Group of universities - including Oxford and Cambridge - have seen the percentage of deprived pupils they admit fall.
The gap in performance between pupils from advantaged and disadvantaged households in England was the equivalent of two years and nine months’ worth of schooling in 2017.
Schools in the UK are among the most socially segregated in the developed world, having unusually high levels of segregation in terms of poorer and migrant families being clustered in the same schools, rather than being spread across different schools.
Despite ethnic minority students excelling and attaining better GCSE and A Level grades on average than their white counterparts, UCAS data shows that white students with similar A-level results are more successful at all levels of university entrance. Meanwhile white people are more likely to be in employment and become homeowners than people of other ethnic backgrounds.
- Women make up just 24% of all people employed in STEM industries with a dismal 11% of engineers in the UK being women despite 41% of science graduates being women.
How do we expect to reach a point where sexism, racism, and xenophobia is defeated if our education system continues to uphold these values? It’s about changing perceptions in day to day life, seeing more women, ethnic minorities and people from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher positions of power. It’s about campaigning for public policies that promote equality, rather than making the poor poorer and rich richer. It’s about ensuring that teachers don’t manifest forms of discrimination against pupils, and making university an affordable and accessible venture for all students. Education is the basis for the formation of an equal society. If our future generations aren’t given equal chances, we will never achieve an egalitarian society.
There are, however, some organisations campaigning to make a change. Check out these organizations that are promoting an equal and accessible education for all:
WISE Campaign for gender balance in science, technology & engineering:
“WISE enables and energises people in business, industry and education to increase the participation, contribution and success of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”
“Creative Access is the only organisation in the UK dedicated to recruiting BAME talent in the creative industries. We help young people, from under-represented communities throughout the UK, to access creative careers. Working with UK’s most successful creative firms, we provide a range of services to help bring in diverse talent to organisations; we facilitate paid 3 to 12 month-long internships; provide employer training and host an opportunities board for organisations to list their roles.”
“The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) is a charity which aims to make a practical improvement in social mobility for young people from low-income backgrounds. The SMF was founded in 2005 by Linkson Jack (who served as Chief Executive until January 2009) in order to provide opportunities and networks of support for 16-17 year olds who are unable to get them from their schools or families.”
Rare Recruitment : Target Oxbridge
“Rare is a for-profit social enterprise. Since 2005 we have developed effective ways to identify talented black students and provide them with one-to-one support that improves their chances of success. Our contextual recruitment software allows us to identify potential and track performance. Our connections with industry and investment in long-term candidate development programmes enable us to provide well-informed advice. We believe that this is why we are able to improve Oxbridge access for black students in a measurable, cost-effective way.”
These organisations are trying to level the uneven playing field that our society has failed to do. By promoting the success of minority groups in education and helping disadvantaged students get into the top careers, they are taking us one step closer to a fair society in which everyone has equal access to all opportunities.
Article by Chanju Mwanza