Gender inequality has been a major concern the world over and affected every sector of life (Smith 2012). Gender inequality in the education sector can have diverse effects. The issue of gender in education can be discussed through looking at the composition in leadership positions, participation in curriculum development and even depiction in textbooks (Ball 2004). This discussion would be incomplete if it did not take into consideration the representation of both males and females in classrooms from the lowest to the highest levels of education. There have been several right groups fighting for gender equality, especially the inclusion of women in policymaking.
This paper, therefore, focuses on addressing the issue of equality, diversity, and social justice system in education about gender inequality. The focus will be the Nigerian education system. The discussion will focus the extent to which gender equity has been achieved in the education sector.
Policy responses to equality and diversity in changing context of education
Equality in the education sector is a concern of fair treatment of all those who are in the system (Smith 2012). The sector should be at the forefront of embracing diversity so that graduates from the system can be the ones who champion the fight for achieving gender equality in the other sectors (Giddens & Sutton). Learners should have equal chances of participation and achievement of their goals. They should feel that they are being appreciated for who they are. There is a need to realize that everyone can achieve his or her potential given the right environment. In this case, the system should be accommodating of all regardless of their gender, background or race. Educationists and policymakers should realize that performance is not necessarily based on gender. There are are several other factors at play in determining performance in school.
One can also logically argue that the history of injustices against women has had serious ramifications in their ability. A correction of this error is vital to bring about a level playing field where everyone has equal participation. Education is a good place to start correcting these past errors. No single gender should dominate the other by isolation. Probably, inclusion will bring about more benefits than exclusion.
Education plays a critical role in government. Education plays a political, social and economic role (Cole 2012). The impact of culture on education cannot be ignored. As far as equality and diversity in the education sector are concerned, policy makers need to address these critical issues objectively and with a sober mind. The role of education in promoting equality and diversity in the society is a matter that should be a concern of all policy makers.
The policy should take into consideration historical injustices especially towards women (Cole 2009). Certain cultural beliefs have tended to undermine equality and hence hampered fair participation in the education sector (Jones 2006). Over the years, educational planners have been concerned with the issue of gender equality in the provision of education. There have been efforts to attain a hundred percent participation of both the male and female gender in education. Because of the historical injustices perpetrated against the girl child and women in general, the focus has been placed on enhancing enrollment of girls in school. These efforts have also focused on promoting women advancement of education to the highest levels. Campaigns to sensitize communities on the importance of girl child education have seen the participation of both the government and right groups.
Baker and Lynch (2005) advocate challenging of powers, including parental controls. They argue that the curricula and assessment need to be changed so that it becomes inclusive the wide range of human intelligence (Baker & Lynch 2005). There is a call for the educational system to respect differences that exist among people. Baker and Lynch (2005) call for a holistic approach to equality in the education sector.
Therefore, there is more to equality than gender equality. There is a need to look into other factors that promote social justice and enhance equity in education. The curriculum should address individual needs and appreciate individual differences if it is to protect the interests of all (Gilibom 2006). It can be argued that these differences exist across gender and race and therefore in addressing these issues; educationists should focus on each in particular rather than grouping individuals, let’s say for instance regarding males and females. Equality would demand that these gatherings take into consideration unique capabilities. However, these groupings should desist from taking as the basis of grouping the society stereotypes.
The fight for gender equality should also not be used as a tool for undermining the gender that has been perceived as been privileged in the past (Taylor et al.). The activities aimed at promoting equality should focus on uplifting the gender that has been neglected while at the same time promoting the interests of the other so that we may not have a scenario in future where the war against gender inequality would have to shift. Therefore, policies towards achieving gender equality should be all inclusive and take into consideration all factors that would promote achievement of social justice.
The issue of resource allocation and funding should be looked into while promoting equality in education. In this regard, government subsidies should be considered while designing an education system that allows all members of the society to participate. That is because sometimes inequality is catalyzed by poverty levels in most communities. Therefore, ignoring poverty indexes would be self-defeating in the war against inequality in the education sector.
Inequality, social exclusion and inclusion in educational context
Education is vital for an extensive participation in the development of society. According to United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report, inequalities and exclusion “can lead to disaffection, social fragmentation, and even conflicts.”(UNESCO 2012).The report further states that exclusion from quality education results in inequalities in the society. The right to education demands equality in the provision of educational opportunities. Exclusion in educational opportunities has been interpreted socially and historically. Differences that exist among people have been the basis of exclusion and inclusion in the educational sector.
The complex concept of inequality can be used in determining social exclusion. The factors used to exclude people in the society become the basis for exclusion in the education sector while at the same time exclusion in education is the basis for social exclusion (UNESCO 2012). However, education has been seen to promote equality and inclusion in the society.
Historical inclinations of many education systems have also been a factor that has fostered inequalities and exclusion. According to the UNESCO report of 2012, the current education systems originated from the early nineteenth century and were developed from here. Therefore, their expansion has been by past understanding of society and the people. In this regard, there exists a disparity between social realities and the current education systems. That has been seen to promote inequality and exclusion. This is because education systems have taken long to transform into the current realities of life.
To work towards an inclusive and equal society, there is the need for the education systems to address the discrepancies that exist between the system and the current social realities. In doing so, the society will become more inclusive and enhance equality. Exclusion in the education system needs to be addressed urgently. That should be done in line with the changing context of the society. The education system should be seen to promote equal opportunities. It should be inclusive of all the distinct groups in the society and should be devoid of any stereotype discrimination.
Exclusion should not be viewed in the narrower terms of just being out of school (Smith 2012). It encompasses many aspects. It includes accessibility to the basic needs that promote good health. Therefore, lack of such basic needs as food, shelter among others could undermine equality in education. The issue of school fees can also prevent many from accessing education hence promoting exclusion from educational opportunities.
Other factors that need to be addressed in dealing with exclusion in education include infrastructure. If schools are too far away for persons to access and the unavailability of good access road network can also undermine inclusion in the school system. Unavailability of infrastructure that support learning such as electricity and communication system can also undermine equality in the provision of education.
The quality of education offered must also be similar to the system to be considered inclusive. If quality standards are undermined in one area of the country, then the result will be that the system does not promote equality and hence it will become exclusive. For education to be inclusive, it means that the system gives all people equal opportunities to participate in the development of the country (Ball 2004). Therefore, if the quality of education is undermined in one area, then it would mean that the people in that area are disadvantaged.
There must be consideration of security in areas where education is being offered. Insecurity can mean that most people miss classes or school altogether. This has the effect of creating inequality in that the people from troubled areas are denied a chance to continue schooling and hence are less privileged than their counterparts from the areas that are secure. Insecurity, therefore, promoted exclusion in education.
Exclusion in education most affects the vulnerable groups, including women. For instance, in areas where there is a danger, the women, and the girls are the most affected (Gilibom 2006). They, therefore, cannot continue with education and some of them are subjected to other forms of injustices such as rape during times of insecurity. However, this does not mean that men are not affected by war. They do suffer since some of them are recruited to participate in wars and hence their chances for learning are affected.
Current and future professional practice about equality, diversity, and social justice
Teachers play a pivotal role in imparting values and skills to learners. They are therefore instrumental in the promotion of equality, diversity and social justice in the society through their learners (Gorag& See). It is necessary for teachers to operate in an environment that is equal and appreciates diversity. They should not be victims of inequalities in the society. Instead, they should be in the forefront fighting for a just society that is all inclusive. If teachers themselves become victims of inequalities and social injustices, then the values they instill to their learner are questionable.
Teachers should desist from archaic thinking of the rest of the society that is not based on any objective reasoning. They should rather be champions of change in the society so that learners and the society benefit from the education system. In this regard, outdated educational policies based on the past centuries should not form part of the curriculum (Jenkins 2004). There should be a move towards transformational change that is in line with the current trends in the society. It is important that teachers themselves embrace best practices aimed at promoting diversity and social justice. It is then when education will have played its role as a factory where justice and equality are promoted. Education should give everybody equal chances of developing and attaining their potential while at the same time appreciating the diverse abilities and needs of each particular individual (Cole 2012).
Teachers should instill to their students the values they would like to see in the society. That should be done within the curriculum. In this regard, teachers should try as much as possible to bring out the potential in each and every learner regardless of their gender, age or color (Cole 2009). That should begin in the formative ages of the children so that graduates of our school system should come out ready to bring about the desired change. It should be the role of the education system to make the society better than it was before. Each generation should bring about the desired change that will transform the society to be more equal, more appreciative of diversity and promoting social justice.
Teachers should refrain from determining roles regarding gender. They should give each learner a chance to show what they can do. There should be the motivation of all gender to be involved in those roles that are considered being specific to particular gender. Those learners who exhibit a desire to take up subjects and role traditionally perceived to belong to a particular gender should be rewarded while those who still hold on to the traditional view of gender roles should be imparted with appropriate thinking through activities that are geared towards proving to them what every person is capable of despite gender disparities. Learners should be made to appreciate individual differences and also understand that they can complement each other.
The curriculum should encourage participation of every student in activities that promote social justice. The role of the teacher in such a curriculum should be that of a tour guide who directs his or her learners in the maze of life. Therefore, classroom activities should be learner-centered rather than teacher centered. That should be done in the realization that teachers are not the sole custodians of knowledge. They should rather promote professionalism and encourage the learners to participate in classroom discussions. Activities in the classroom should be all inclusive and geared towards bringing out the best in every learner.
There should be a proactive effort to change the traditional thinking of the society that promotes exclusion. The classrooms should be places where diversity is appreciated. Inappropriate groupings based on traditional gender perspectives should be disqualified through learning activities that prove each gender is capable of achieving what the other can. Social groupings that segregate some should be discouraged and in their place there should be all-inclusive groupings. For instance, when it comes to the selection of subject areas, there should not be those subjects for girls and those for boys. Every learner should be given an equal chance of selecting the subject he or she wishes to undertake. Proper advice should be given to the students when selecting subjects and roles in classrooms.
Student leadership should also reflect equality. A democratic process of appointing student leaders should be adopted. This process should, however, give every student a chance to be appointed to a position of leadership. In this regard, there should be a level playing ground for all students regardless of gender. All students should be encouraged to participate in the process of the selection process. This process should be done with an aim of promoting value based society that appreciates the capabilities of each as well as integrity and fair competition.
If need be, the curriculum should be changed to reflect the need for equality, diversity, and social justice. A task force should be formed to look into the curriculum and change those areas that seem to undermine social justice. In this regard, traditional based processes should be changed for new ones that reflect a changing society. In doing so, there should be an appreciation of the heritage of the society so that the curriculum does not bring about demeaning of existing values of the society. What such a change should aim at is removing those areas that appear to promote social injustices but retain those areas that are meant to maintain the values of the society and respect for life.
Education can play a very crucial role in promoting equality, diversity and social justice. Educators should become aware of the crucial position they hold in driving the society towards the desired destination. There should be the focus in aligning the education system to the changing understanding of the society. Traditional thinking that formed the basis of our educational systems should be looked at afresh so that they are changed to reflect what the society needs. Those practices that undermine equality and social justice should be taken out of the education system and replaced with those that promote equity and diversity. The education system should be inclusive rather than exclusive. Therefore, those factors that encourage exclusion should be addressed. It is important that everybody is given equal opportunities to prove what they can do. Therefore, policy makers and stakeholders in the education sector should ensure that resources are allocated equitably. No one should be disadvantaged because of lack of necessary resources. The role of education in promoting inclusion in national development should be considered objectively. The education system should therefore reflect a more inclusive society that values social justice and appreciates diversity. It is then that we will have won the battle of equality and promoted justice by dealing with inequalities that existed before. Achievement of a hundred percent inclusion should be the aim of every education system. There should be visible efforts towards promoting justice in the society so that all groups have equal chances of success.