Unequal Opportunities


The BBC2 programme ‘Unequal Opportunities’ sought to explore reasons for our country’s ever increasing social divide, highlighting education (on the whole) as failing to decrease the gap. I want to briefly explore some of the issues raised by the programme in an attempt to consider the question: What is education for?

All individuals, no matter what social class they are born into, have the capacity to learn. Plato considered that talent could be found in any social standing and this is very much the stance taken by the programme (and rightly so). The programme also resonates with Plato’s thinking in highlighting that the environment in which an individual is born into can often restrict opportunities for development; the programme points out the disparities in levels of attainment in children from differing social backgrounds. Education, therefore, should seek to decrease the attainment gap and educate equally. However, as the programme pointed out, the gap is widening.

Despite this, the programme is measuring such attainment on exam results and basing their arguments on traditional ideas of graded learning and achievement in line with national standards and government set curricula. Perhaps, in order to close the gap, we need to think differently about young people, learning and education. (Expansion to follow in another post).

Interestingly, the head teacher of a private school, when asked if such schools are impacting on the divide, answered: ‘Divide is part of society’. He continued to explain that if all young people were educated together, new inequalities would arise. It is how we deal with such inequality that builds strong communities and societies. If all children were educated equally, all achieved the same results, and all studied the same things what sort of society would be created? Would this even work? Do we need social class systems in place for a society to work? (These are just questions I am asking.)

Who has the right to engineer society? Who should that right fall to, and how would we ever decide?

I have so many questions but very few ideas or answers at the moment and this post has gone slightly off course…more thinking is needed.

One thought on “Unequal Opportunities

  1. This reminds me of Ken Robinson’s TED speech where he speaks of a teacher who scoffs at a pupil who yearns to be a fireman. However, the teacher must eat his hat as the pupil, 10 years later,<br/> saves his and his wife’s life. In essence,society needs all sorts of skills. We all harbour wildly varied skills, wants and desires in us. Education’s role is to find, nurture and celebrate these across every social divide; be it gender, age and class.

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