Jan 25, 2018 in Book Review

Equity in Education


James Richard addresses the issue of equity in higher education. He is specific on equity because it is one the three effectiveness measures that seem to be the centre of attention in for higher education policy makers. In his specific words, James states that “equity in higher education is undoubtedly one of the ‘wicked problems’ for policy makers”. Throughout the article, James uses countries, education policies, cases/real examples of the contradictory results of actions meant to show equity in the society and the education system. The gap of the education level between the rich and the middle or low earning people continues to widen, despite the efforts and policies to make this gap narrower. After supporting his perception characterizing the ineffectiveness of the equity education policy in Australia, James concludes by suggesting that the policy needs re-invigoration, otherwise, it will remain symbolic.



The aim of any policy is to make sure that the equity is delivered to all members of the society. It is especially meant to protect the people who are the most vulnerable when it comes to the injustices arising from social-economic differences, race or other marginalized situations. Unfortunately, the policy does not seem to fulfill its intended purpose. The people acquiring higher education from high socioeconomic status continue to increase at a significantly higher rate than those from low socio-economic status. It is relevant that there have been changes as James appreciates. Australia, for example, has many people from various backgrounds and settings who have entered and completed the university education. However, the goal of the policy is far from reach.

Apart from the quality of education, there are various aspects of education. The finance/monetary aspect of it is relevant. Although there are many attempts to make education as affordable as possible, it is still expensive. There are government subsidies meant to make issues better. However, it does not bring the targeted impact. The government subsidies can only support so many people. There is a larger share that needs this help, but it will not access it. It is relevant to note that challenges originate from other areas. If there are students from low socio-economic status in the university, they probably were in the primary and secondary levels. People from disadvantaged backgrounds have lesser hopes of entering the university. They therefore put lesser effort in order to enter the university, thus limiting their chances even further, hence the widening gap.

Another issue relates to the score needed to enter the university

This also aligns with the score needed in order to earn government support or scholarships. Difficult socio-economic environments have a negative impact ones learning capability. They are a major distraction. The student in such a situation has a more difficult time achieving the needed score to reach the university as compared to the student in a higher socio-economic status. Between 1991 and 2005 as James puts it, the students who accommodated university places from low SES (social economic status) were 14.5%, 44.5% from medium SES and 39.0% from high SES. The low rate of people from low SES is concerning.

The other arms of higher education insist that the quality of higher education needs to be maintained. For this to happen, the score cannot be lowered or be made “too special” due to potential students’ backgrounds, races, or otherwise. For such reasons, equity has its price, hence its limitations. It is relevant to understand that the there is change. James calls the equity policy a problem. This is because the equity policy is not as an easy issue as it is usually put across. It is not about offering equal opportunities to everybody. It is also about streamlining other areas so that the equality is also seen.

Research needs to be done in order to support the re-invigoration of Australia as James suggests. The education ministry should also work along with other ministries in order to improve the social economic standard of the people. The government may not bring an even ration of all the three groups of the society. However, it can make this gap to be narrower. Raisin programmes that encourage the students from low SES to aim at going t the universities is a reasonable start.

David Riesman and Christopher Jenks Summary

Riesman and Jenks criticize the American education policy that seems to support the poor but able people to explore the arena of education while it discriminates the poor. In other words, these authors feel that the equity policy does not promote equality, but rather it is for the able who appear as poor.

C Wright Mills summary

This article explores the relationship between a character’s trouble and his/her surrounding. From a larger perspective, Mills seems to be stating that such issues as equity or unequal representation of low/medium/high SES in the universities is not entirely an issue of the government, but rather an issue of people and their environments.

Durkheim, E Summary

Durkheim explores the meaning of the term social in order to allow the reader to differentiate the issues that are termed as social issues and other issues. By understanding this, one will be able to understand the issue of equity in education as a social issue or from a social perspective.  


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