The term diversity means something which signifies a range of different things, an assortment, a mixture etc. When we speak of diversity, we are referring to respecting the individual, we are referring to the uniqueness of each individual, we are referring to our individual differences but most importantly we are referring to acceptance of the individual. This acceptance also entails respecting and valuing the individual.
Diversity, equality and equity are interlinked. We are almost two decades into the 21st century but diversity, equality and equity still needs discussion and addressing. These are complex issues and there are no easy answers because we have only scratched the surface of the issue and haven’t even formulated all the questions yet. The best way to promote and celebrate a diverse society is through education and to do this, the profession needs to start by promoting diversity within itself.
These issues are complex and hence there will be no easy solutions or quick fixes. People sometimes put forward the idea of quotas to increase diversity. Again, we need to be very careful before introducing quotas. Baroness Doreen Lawrence was on an expert panel at the Charles Street Building, Sheffield Institute of Education, last year. One of the questions posed to the panel and audience concerned the attainment gap of BAME university students. The audience were asked to vote for one of the below which they felt should be the first action in addressing this.
- Amend staff recruitment policies so staff are representative of the wider population
- Accept that evidence suggests there is institutional racism and take measures to address it
- Set up strong transition and progression routes and genuine aspirational pathways
- Set BAME student recruitment quotas
Looking at the above four choices, which one do you think got the least votes?
Option 4 got the least number of votes (6%). Baroness Lawrence, too, said she did not agree with quotas and would go for Option 3 (which happened to be the one with the most votes). I also think that quotas are perhaps the wrong way to solve the diversity problem. One problem with quotas is that once you start a quota system and meet the quota, there may be a tendency to relax and think the problem has been solved.
So, what are my hopes for diversity in education? I would like to have an education system where every individual is allowed to and has the resources and opportunities to access all that they need to in order to excel. I would like barriers removed so that more men feel they can go into teaching at early years and primary level, women feel they can go for leadership positions, every student (regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, income) has access to higher and further education. I would like us to really examine issues such as why people from disadvantaged white British backgrounds are least likely to access higher education and why female Bangladeshi graduates are less likely to be managers or professionals than male Bangladeshi graduates. I hope that equality, equity and diversity are promoted by treating by EVERYONE fairly. I hope there is equal access for everyone in all fields. I hope that we can help EVERYONE fight discrimination. I hope we will create environments where everyone can have a say; where people can speak up if they have been discriminated against, where people won’t be afraid to speak up thinking they may be thought of sexist, racist, etc. I hope that as a first step
“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” John F Kennedy
And in order to do that
“What we have to do…is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities.” Hillary Clinton