Equality and Diversity in Classrooms
Globalisation and increased travel of people around the world has led to greater diversity of people around the world. Equality and diversity aims to promote and accept the differences between people. In specific, equality is about creating an equal opportunity to ensure individuals or group of individuals are not treated differently because of their characteristics. Whereas, diversity’s aim is to recognize and respect the differences of people by realizing their potential and placing a positive value on those differences.
Equality and diversity is becoming a major concern in the society. Everything we do is linked to our personal characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age etc. The aim of equality of opportunity is to bring an end to such barriers to promote a healthy environment where everyone can work according to their full potential. Diversity promotes human rights in relation to recognizing the different backgrounds people belong to also their skills and experiences which are different to one another. Hence, it makes no sense to compare, discriminate or stereotype people.
Equality duties on schools:
There are certain duties on the school authorities to provide equal opportunity to students for example; for admission and attendance, teaching and learning, school trips, sports activities, breaks, timetable and progress and discipline. Similarly, the staff is also entitled to equality in terms of recruitment and selection, career progress and dismissal. These guidelines are also implemented on parents who are linked to the school system and government bodies to help implement the equality legislation.
Since schools have a greater impact on students’ behavior and personal development therefore promoting equality, inclusion and community cohesion is important. Discrimination in relation to sexual orientation, religion, race and age should be monitored and taken into consideration. Gender and racial equality duty also comes under specific duties of the school management.
The Equality Act 2010:
The Equality Act 2010 imposes a single equality duty on schools and other public bodies to protect the rights of people who hold more than one of the characteristics of the following groups: race, disability, religion, gender etc. The act provides a consolidated source of discrimination law covering all types of discrimination.
Under the equality act all schools must observe non-discriminatory practices, rules for prevention of harassment in the way pupils are treated, given admissions, given any benefit apart from what the school allows, exclusion of students for a specific subject as well.
With the following act in place disability of any sort is also dealt properly, and any discriminatory act is directly categorized as unlawful.
Promoting equality and diversity in classrooms:
In addition to modifying teaching practices, skills, lectures, tutorials, ICT; opportunities are provided to students to develop healthy relationships with their peers, initiating group work, assessment tasks and long lasting personal and professional relationships. Student interaction, increased communication and confidence in speech are the derivatives of efficient learning practices being applied successfully in shaping their personality. These practices also constitute procedures to not discriminate between the types of people (cast, social groups, religious affiliation, gender, etc.). Students actively take part in group discussions and peer assessments.
Teacher trainings should also be carried out periodically to provide assistance in student development programs. Teacher education programs focus on guidelines towards classroom management rather than individual dealing. Furthermore, teachers can be taught how to covert these guidelines into strategies according to the students they deal with. Some basic principles can be;
- Beliefs about diversity shaping instructional behaviors
- Multiple perspectives in learning about diversity
- Multiple techniques to achieve common learning outcomes
- Developing skills to adapt to different cultural systems
With proper guidelines we can create opportunities for students to help change their environment, schools may modify their teaching practices and encourage classroom participation.
Some specific examples of how you can promote equality and diversity in classrooms can be;
- Using gender neutral and multicultural examples
- Ensuring learning materials such as worksheets, presentations, tests do not discriminate against anyone and are adapted where possible (large print, audio tape format)
- Using a range of teaching and assessment methods to cater to different individual needs
- Avoiding stereotypes in all resources
- Ensuring school policies and procedures do not discriminate against anyone
- Challenging negative and discriminatory attitudes of students and staff
Equality objectives should be kept under review, develop action plans to achieve desired goals and frequently update teaching practices to get better results.