Gender Inequality in Education
Culturally, there is a belief that every individual has the same chance to succeed in society. Even in our constitution, it states that all men are created equal. What is underlying in this belief is that a failure to succeed is the fault of the gender or race of the individual. Inequalities in educational institutions affect students in various ways; providing greater impact on children from lower socio-economic backgrounds and maintaining advantages of those with money, which are then passed on to their children (Bradbury et al. 2015). Education is a right of all humans, allowing individuals to lead healthier, fuller and more satisfying lives. For economies and societies as a whole, teaching and learning is an investment, improving prospects for advancement. When students are given the opportunity to learn, they will excel.
Inequality, as defined by Merriam-Webster, refers to the quality of being uneven or unequal, social disparity and a discrepancy in opportunity (Merriam-Webster, 2011). This can clearly be seen in establishments around the country. Students who are plagued by economic stress are generally described as lonely, isolated and neglected, their disadvantage bolstered by the schools, while their neighborhoods eventually become indifferent (Gerson, 2015).
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Children of more affluent families are supported by a network of resources including; counselors, parents, coaches, and tutors, with the ability to reduce the consequences and direct students from future complications (Gerson, 2015). Those with access to financial assets can benefit extensively by utilizing the private sector and implementing more support for the school. Cultural capital is where teachers are able to gather more information about higher education and better prepare their students to succeed and get in, at the same time, those with social capital use it with regard to gaining access to the best schools (Wong, 2004).
Poverty remains as the most pervasive and significant factor for inequality in education. Based on data from demographic and health surveys in low-income countries, 34 percent of girls in the poorest households completed elementary school; in comparison, with 72 percent of girls in the richest households. This difference was due solely to income poverty (World Bank, 2010). The unequal administration of scholastic resources, including; qualified teachers, funding, books, and technology tend to leave these communities disadvantaged. Data from the 1992 Trial State Assessment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that socially advantaged students had more access to scholastic resources than socially disadvantaged students. Access also depended on student race; however, the extent of ethnic and social disparity varied unquestionably across states (Bradbury et al. 2015).
A thorough report providing information on how ethnicity and race affect the way students learn is available in The U.S Department of Education’s 2014 Civil Rights Data Collection. The report ascertained that black students were expelled at three times the rate of white students; that black girls were suspended at higher rates than most boys and all other girls, and that Black, Native American and Latinos have a greater chance of attending schools with a larger number of first-year educators than white students (Educational Equity Report, 2014). This report is indicative of the marginalization of students based on race. While gender inequalities may have reduced, those of social class remain and are now reinforced by racial inequalities.
One pattern that is evident in the data is that higher family income is associated with a greater probability that a child will enter and graduate from college. A study by Northwestern University found that the physiological response to race-based stressors, whether it be perceived racial prejudice, or the drive to outperform negative stereotypes, leads to the body releasing more stress hormones in adolescents from traditionally marginalized groups (Levy et al. 2016).
Unfortunately, schools and teachers are contributing to the process of educational inequalities. While school competition and the social blend is important, research shows that some schools are more capable of evening up than others. The elements dominating the subtraction in the difference between lower, middle, upper-class students are more regularly seen in schools where the greater number of the student body is of middle or upper-class. This indicates that those of lower-class backgrounds attending school can progress through organizational change. Substantial improvement will only come from making changes in the ethnic and social configuration of places of education (Van Zanten, 2005).
An interesting interview outlining ‘a day in the life’ of two high school students attending different schools highlights the inequalities of education in a very clear way. Jackson is a white student at Mclean High School, Virginia and Cedric is a black student at Heritage High School in Maryland. Jackson takes a lot of AP classes while participating in a men’s course, a leadership program and technical theater. He drives to school and comments how “a majority of the students attending this school are motivated to learn and succeed, both athletically and academically”. His school has a new studio in it (it is one of three high schools in the county that have studios) which is run solely by students, who also partake in performances and production. Jackson says “if every school was like McLean, it would increase the standard of living and make things better”. Cedric sees things differently from Jackson. He does not take any AP classes. He takes the subway and a bus to school and because there are many students who do the same, he believes it should be free.
Cedric says that a lot of students have lost the will to learn, and continues, “they don’t find school interesting because they don’t have the power to do anything. They say so in the classroom”. Cedric’s school has metal detectors and the graffiti on the walls is frequently painted over. He goes on to describe how the teachers buy their own school supplies which he thinks is unfair as the school system should have the money to supply these things. Cedric says “it is not fair, we are all trying to learn. Why shouldn’t we receive the same advantages they (McLean HS) have. I don’t understand that. We all want to be something” (Youtube, 2009).
Educational inequality is one of the most immediate societal and economic issues in this country and our education system should be compensating for these inequalities by providing opportunities and assisting students to progress above their socio-economic circumstances. The close association between economic and education inequalities cast suspicion on the contention that the United States imparts ‘opportunities of equality’ which encourages social mobility (Mishel, 2015).
The idea of ‘no child left behind’ is a result of the societal failure represented by the relationship between economic and education inequalities (Garcia and Weiss, 2017). Achievement gaps are indicative of the untapped talents and unmet needs of lower socioeconomic students. Strong cognitive and noncognitive skills are crucial for success within school and for the future. A lack of social mobility is perpetuated across generations when low educational performance leads to lowered employment prospects later in life. Comprehensive academic and emotional support throughout scholastic years can serve to alleviate the impact of economic inequality on the student’s educational performance and better their prospective life and employment (Garcia and Weiss. 2017).
Not only are educational inequalities present in the student body, but also in the teaching body. This is evident in tertiary education where a deficit of females in roles of academic leadership can be seen when observing the abundance of men in such roles. The Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona’s public universities governing body, currently has twelve members, of which two are female. In addition, at Arizona State University, there are eight women out of a total of 38 positions, including University provosts, vice presidents and deans (Sutherland, 2017). These statistics are just one example of how gender roles contribute to the consistency of such inequality. Inadequate representation in educational systems indicates an acceptance that these gender roles are the norm. These inequalities should not be perpetuated, they should be challenged by institutions, leaning toward leadership positions promoting gender equality (Sutherland, 2017).
Administrations and education analysts have been aware of issues related to equality by concentrating on gender, socio-economic status, race, and ethnicity. Policymakers and researchers have accepted the importance of segregation, poverty, and race when it comes to the attainment of education, as seen in the publication of the Coleman Report (Coleman et al.1966). These educational inequalities continue to be a sizable issue today. Research makes evident that unevenness in opportunity and favorable circumstances within race and social class are established early and usually remain through the course of the student’s elementary and secondary school life, if not beyond these years (Bradbury et al. 2015).
Eradicating educational inequalities will result in the amplification of the affirmative effects of schooling on the success of other development outcomes, as a more equal administering of average education has a supplementary impact on economic growth. An education that is delivered equally is necessary for an inclusive system. (UNESCO, 2014). Inequality fails to provide the foundation necessary for the general public to be knowledgeable in our democratic system. Without comprehension of the system and the part that the individual is expected to perform in modifying the organization, it cannot operate as intended (Bradbury et al. 2015). Perhaps the answer is spreading the wealth of the nation in a more equitable manner so that the long-term benefits of education eliminate the thought of reducing education budgets. There is nothing more paramount to the sustained success of the individual or community than education. Participation in the development of knowledge instruction must be made more interesting and equal for all concerned. Learning should be more personalized, encouraging all students to engage, ultimately providing more innovative, educated workers to continue economic growth (UNESCO, 2014).
The promotion of educational equality fosters identity, social inclusion, balanced opportunities, social cohesion, economic growth and employment (Garcia and Weiss. 2017). There are varying factors which illuminate the issue surrounding inequality in education including gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, opportunity, and social exclusion, all of which mirror widespread social and economic inequalities. The prominence of inequality in education is a social problem that needs to be challenged and further explored in an effort to address concerns and provide better opportunities to all.