The passing of the Organic Law 3/2020, 29 December 2021, which is popularly known as LOMLOE, puts in place a process of reform of the Educational System in Spain.
The aim of the law is to ensure the provision of a quality education with equal opportunities for one and all. LOMLOE aims to help equip young people with the necessary competences to meet the demands of the global and digital world of today and tomorrow: to meet the demands of societal change.
Gender equality or equity?
The second focus of the law is:
Ensuring gender equality, preventing gender violence, respecting diversity and ensuring an inclusive and non-sexist education.
This is directly linked to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, of which Spain is a proud member. Sustainable goals number 4 and 5 outline inclusive, quality education and gender equality. At home and school is always the best place for children to learn how to participate and promote a fairer society. However, I would like to address the term ‘equality’ in this education law and argue that it is, in fact, ‘equity’ that we should be striving towards.
The terms equality and equity are often confusing, so first let’s begin with a simple explanation as to what is the difference.
Equality refers to making sure that everyone has access to the same resources. While this sounds marvellous, and indeed, what we expect from democratic educational institutions in Spain and around the world, the word does not take into account that every child and human being is unique and may require additional help.
Equity understands that all humans come from different background and experiences, and therefore equips them with the right tools so that each individual achieves the same goals or outcomes.
This way of thinking about education is aligned with the concept of personalised learning, where schools, teachers and students work together to try to find the right path that suits each student’s needs and strengths.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Embrace Equity’. This is a perfect opportunity for you as an educator to introduce the concept to your students and discuss the differences between equality and equity. The website has downloadable resources to help you plan lessons raising awareness.
Implementing equity and teaching the concept at school
Here are some ideas for you to think about to accommodate different learning styles and the diversity of your students every day.
- Present the same information in different ways for visual, aural and verbal learners
- Use a variety of media (e.g. coursebook, videos, podcasts, app based learning)
- Provide complimentary materials to the lesson plan to help students understand the learning aims (E.g. plan extra materials, such as visual aids, grammar instructions to hand out)
- Give students the ability to adjust their computer settings (e.g. increase text size or adjust brightness)
- Use dyslexia-friendly fonts in worksheets and presentations
- Read instructions aloud, even if they appear in print, and vice versa – prepare your common instructions in print and use them or point to them as you speak.
- Allow extra time for test taking, or allow the test to be taken on a computer for some students
- Include transcripts for any listening activities
- Change the classroom tables and chairs if you can, or move students to different seats if you cannot. Students can work with many different partners in class, and it stops you from only teaching to the first three rows of students.
- Providing quiet spaces for students who find it hard to concentrate with lots of stimulus
What to do if your students are inappropriate in class
Every student (and teacher, if we’re honest) has a set of biases and assumptions. Sometimes, students will say something because they have a certain assumption of have been misinformed by something. A big part of building an equitable class is stopping these insensitive remarks and explaining why they are so.
When a student uses language that defies classroom guidelines, you can
Pause—Stop the lesson at once to focus on the problem so that the important discussion doesn’t lose its impact.
Address—Draw everyone’s attention to the remark without shaming the student
a. Identify why the statement is harmful
b. Explain why it doesn’t promote equity
Discuss—Initiate a respectful class discussion around the biases and background knowledge that may have triggered the student to make the harmful comment.
Doing this can be quite uncomfortable at first, but discussing inappropriate remarks immediately is a powerful way of promoting equity.
For my generation, we had it instilled in us the concepts of fairness and not cheating. For example, ‘why does my friend get to use a book to help them but I can’t?’ On the face of it, one might think that, yes, this is indeed not fair. But now as we look at the bigger picture and we see that not every child starts from the same point or has the same advantages in life, and that every child is unique, we need to question our own beliefs as educators. The most important thing for me as a teacher is that my students learn English and enjoy classes. Does it really matter the tools they use to learn? The answer is no.