To address the strong concerns that have arisen across the world about equity gaps within education as a result of the closure of schools and other educational settings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the global federation of education unions has published a Guide for its member organisations on the process of auditing equity as educational settings have reopened or are due to reopen. The Guide is a tool to support education unions as they advocate for equity audits to be conducted at both education institution and systems levels.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented school closures that have affected over 1.5 billion students worldwide. However, the impact of the pandemic has not been equal, with vulnerable and disadvantaged students disproportionately impacted by the resulting global crisis in teaching and learning. COVID-19 has not caused, but rather deepened already existing structural inequalities in education systems everywhere. Equity audits are central to a deep analysis of the impact of full and partial closures and reopenings on students and educators.
To support its member organisations to effectively advocate for equity audits, Education International has published Auditing Educational Equity in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Guide for education unions stresses the importance of equity audits in enabling education institutions and systems to adapt more effectively to a COVID-19 ‘new normal’ and also address entrenched structures of inequality that have long prevent countries from realising the universal right to education.
Education unions are uniquely placed to assess the extent to which equity issues within education have increased as a result of the health crisis. Consequently, they should be fully included in the design and processing of equity audits across education systems and institutions.
The Education International Guide provides a list of areas that an equity audit can explore, including the steps taken to adapt education systems to pandemic conditions, the safety and security measures adopted when schools reopened, student learning during the pandemic, support to students and families, training and support for staff, and educators’ working conditions.
The guide also draws attention to the fact that the types of discrimination – that leads to inequitable outcomes within education – are rarely based on a single factor. Therefore, in auditing equity, it is imperative to explore and analyse the multiple and intersecting factors in the lives of individual people and groups that lead to discrimination within education. These include, but are not limited to ability/disability, age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, location, migration status, race, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.
Education International member organisations will discuss the new guide and equity issues in the sector in a webinar, which will take place today.
David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, stated: “As defenders of the human right to education and the human right to decent work, education unions have a critical role to play in calling for equity within the education sector to be audited in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an essential first step towards rebuilding our education systems in a way that ensures no one is left behind. Our aim is not to go back to normal because normal was never good enough. We need to do better.”