Equity Matters in Education

  • Awarded to: Professor Elizabeth Wood
  • Co-investigators: Dr Martin Levinson Associate Professor Keith Postlethwaite
  • Funding Awarded to Exeter: £ 46,091
  • Dates: 1 September 2009 - 30 November 2010
  • Sponsor(s): Education International

The aim of this project, funded by Education International, was to capture the nature and significance of equity policies in the achievement of quality education for all in public education systems. Four key questions guided the design of the study:

1. How do education unions conceptualize equity in education?

2. How are these concepts operationalised, as evidenced in practices and policies?

3. What are the issues for teachers, with regards to the concepts of equity?

4. How can Education International contribute to the international debate on equity in ways that benefit members?

The methods included a large-scale on-line survey of Unions’ goals and practices, followed by in-depth case studies of six member countries. The Final Report (www.ei-ie.org) highlighted that teacher unions are committed to pursuing and achieving equity targets in education. Whilst the pursuit of equity and quality goals is an effective means of leveraging change, there have to be pragmatic adjustments between trading-up and trading-off equity issues. For example, equity goals in the Canadian Teachers Federation include social advocacy and addressing child poverty, and their policies have impacted on aboriginal education. However, funding disparities remain between urban and rural areas, with the result that smaller rural schools have fewer opportunities for programme and curriculum choice, and reduced fund-raising capacity amongst low SES communities. As in other countries, it is not just the lack of funding and resources, but an unequal spread of resources that impact on vulnerable communities. Trade-offs occur across all areas of the education system in developed and developing countires. Dynamic and shifting socio-political and economic agendas influence the extent to which unions can achieve holistic rather than fragmentary approaches.

EI is the global union federation representing more than 30 million teachers, professors and education workers from pre-school to university, in 173 countries and territories around the globe.


Dr Elizabeth Wood, University of Exeter (now at University of Sheffield)
Dr Keith Postlethwaite, University of Exeter
Dr Martin Levinson, University of Exeter
Dr Alison Black, University of Exeter