Why the need for equity programmes in education?
The layers of inequity woven into India’s social fabric are well known, and teachers and students alike bring these to the school and classroom. Social divides like language, caste, religion, gender, location, culture and customs are inherited from generation to generationtogether with their inherentbiases.
Students who are physically or mentally challenged are also disadvantaged.
Children’s gender, economic class, location and ethnic identity largely define the type of school they will access, the kind of experiences they will have in school and the benefits they will reap from being educated. With the great diversity of learners in today’s classrooms, there comes the challenge to provide equitable education to each and every child.
Ensuring equity and excellence by delivering equitable, quality education in formal schooling lies at the very core of any country’s educational system, in which the teacher – the key facilitator of the education process – plays the most important role in shaping the child’s journey through schooling.
UNICEF In Action
Gender and inclusion are one of the important aspects UNICEF considers as part of training programmesfor teachers and the wider community. Training for teachers ensures democratic classrooms and teaching-learning processes that encourage equal participation of children from all backgrounds, including girls.
Training for the community ensures that all children in the neighbourhood of the school are enrolled, attend school regularly and are treated well in school. UNICEF has supported states to develop training modules and incorporate training on developing skills to respond to diversities in school and within classroom settings. A national-level consultation, “Addressing Equity Issues in Education”, washeld with a focus on classrooms and teachers.
UNICEF has led community mobilization programmes in areas where education indicators are below par. The thrust has been on mobilizingthe community through localized campaigns, sensitization meetings involving existing community-level institutions, such as the attendance campaign, creating awareness about the entitlements of children and talking directly to particularly vulnerable families.
In the state of Assam, there is an example of UNICEF being able to reach small communities in hostile locations to ensure school attendance participationwhere a lack of education otherwise adds further to people’s marginalization.
UNICEF has also commenced work in selected areas of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha that are affected by conflict, to provide children education as a fundamental right.
While the approach has been different in the four states, each focuses on aspects that will help children in these areas complete eight years of elementary education. Alongside this, both UNICEF’s Education and Child Protection sections have initiated inclusion programming in conflict-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir. This collaborative endeavour between UNICEF and NGO, Save the Children, targets six education zones in three districts.