Structural Inequalities

On Tuesday we had a group task to complete, which I found very eye-opening after learning the true meaning behind it. It was very hard to believe that an aspect so present in society could be so easily missed.

In our groups we had to work with the resources we were given to develop an item that a student starting at University of Dundee would find useful and then we were graded on how we presented it to the other groups. At one stage it became clear that not every group had the same amount of resources and my group actually had plentiful supplies compared to the others. This confused us all, as we then felt like it was an unfair playing field. Furthermore, we could definitely spot how our lecturer had a bias to the resource-filled groups and this was evident even when we were giving our presentations and our lecturer was harsher and less caring with the resource-deprived groups.

It was only in the reflection after the task that I realised the themes of gross structural inequality which were underlaying in the activity. Now it is clear to me how as a professional tasked with educating children of all abilities, this is a key theme in education which should not be ignored.

The activity very much coincides with the ‘Professional Values and Personal Commitment’ section of the GTC Standards for Registration. The four values are Social Justice, Integrity, Trust and Respect and Professional Commitment. Social Injustice relates well to the task we completed as it is what the resource-deprived groups were experiencing; their work was automatically disregarded as worse quality because of their lower status regarding resources. Just as those groups were given lesser treatment and suffered the consequences of this in their grades, so too teachers may treat pupils unequally on the basis that they are from a lower, more academically-poor social class. This behaviour is challenged in the GTC Standards as teachers must be “committed to the principles of democracy and social justice through fair, transparent, inclusive and sustainable policies” in regards to social class, gender, ethnicity, religion and disability. From this it is clear that teachers should treat all children equally to ensure every child can achieve their full potential.

Furthermore, the GTC Standards highlight how as teachers, we should aim to maintain Integrity by “bringing about transformative change in practice” and keep Trust and Respect at the core of our careers by “motivating and inspiring learners, acknowledging their social and economic context, individuality and specific learning needs and taking into consideration barriers to learning.” This applies well to the task we completed as children may sometimes face barriers like a lack of resources, but this does not mean our attitude towards them should change. Barriers are partially down to economic status, present in school life as well as wider society. Structural inequalities are a key element in modern society that unfortunately can limit a child’s achievement level.

From this task I have learned how structural inequalities are an aspect to keep in mind as a teacher, as it is so easy for them to thread their way in from wider society to the classroom.