Education International
Education International

EI study shows equity matters for teachers and students

published 9 June 2011 updated 14 June 2011

Researchers from Exeter University Dr. Elizabeth Wood and Dr. Martin Levinson presented key findings of the new EI Research Institute’s study Equity Matters at the European Trade Union Committee on Education (ETUCE) Standing Committee for Equality held from 25-26 May in Brussels, Belgium.

Equity issues have always been high on union’s policy agendas as well as present in government’s rhetoric. However, when it comes to implementation, policy choices are being made often trading-off equity and quality goals. These depend on availability of resources, contextual factors, but also on understanding of equity concepts and dilemmas. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to find out how teacher unions in developed and developing countries conceptualize equity goals and apply them in their policies.

The presentation focused on comparing concepts of horizontal and vertical equity, uncovering diversity within diversity and illustrating some policy dilemmas in minority education. If horizontal equity policies treat those who are equal equally, then vertical equity tries to give additional support to those who are unequal in society and education system. Authors argued that in order to achieve true equality and higher quality in education all policy makers should consider vertical equity policies in addition to providing same fundamental opportunities to all.

The report, consisting of literature review and EI members’ survey, contains rich information on equity policies adopted by governments and unions worldwide, including such diverse countries as Zambia, Poland and New Zealand. It will be printed and made available online to EI affiliates, academic community and general public.

ETUCE Coordinator Susan Flocken then presented the European Commission (EC) report on trade union practices on anti-discrimination and diversity. The report is the outcome of a project under the auspices of the EC, with the support of representatives from European trade unions, including the ETUCE in the steering group. She explained the project aimed at identifying innovative and significant policies to combat discrimination and promote equity within 280 trade unions in 44 European countries. She also highlighted three key suggestions for action to unions from the report: to publicise what works, ensuring that unions incorporate dissemination into their anti-discrimination strategies; promote workplace diversity through addressing multiple forms of discrimination, improving awareness of the concept of multiple discrimination; and work in partnership to be stronger and give credibility and sustainability to trade union initiatives.

Her presentation was followed by three others from EI affiliates in Europe: Francis Huisman from the Dutch CNV Onderwijs mentioned her union’s project, policies, activities and good practices on diversity; Joelle Casa from FLC CGIL, Italy, emphasized her union’s work and progress in terms of gender equity since 2006; and Dorota Obidniak from ZNP, Poland, talked about her union’s initiatives to combat homophobia at school and in society.

Dr. Elizabeth Wood and Dr. Martin Levinson’s presentations are available for download, as well as the Equity Matters report’s executive summary.