The aim of Education is to provide each individual with the opportunity and the necessary skills needed to become successful in their adult life. Therefore, in Canada enrolling in the public-school system is compulsory for all children below the age of 18, the purpose of this policy is to ensure that all individuals have access to formal education. Education is not only essential for the economic growth of a country, but it is also important for the development of each child. Although the Canadian government allocates resources to promote and provide access to education for every child, “compulsory education, along with social welfare, income, and tax transfer programs, and other state policies devoted to minimize the impact of poverty and reduce social inequality in Canada, the United States, and other highly developed democratic societies, has not eliminated pronounced gaps that separate the advantaged from the disadvantaged segments of the population” (Wotherspoon, 240). Educational inequality exists among individuals belonging to marginalized groups such as those of a different gender, race and ability. When it concerns education, these people simply do not have the same educational opportunities as others in society. Therefore, in this paper, I will argue that schools reproduce inequality through discrimination of gender, race and ability. This inequality limits the educational opportunities for those individuals.
Racial and Ethnic Minorities
Many immigrants seek to enter Canada in search of a better education or better standard of living as Canada is known for having a better quality of life but according to Wotherspoon, “many recent immigrants, frequently are marginalized and limited in their ability to gain access to important economic and political positions. While wealth is concentrated among a small core of individuals and firms, large disparities between the privileged and underprivileged are growing” (241). Through modern approaches of teaching that encourage language, racial and cultural integration to foster diversity, educational institutions are struggling to accommodate immigrants as most of these students experience various, social, economic and physical challenges. Many schools fail to accommodate recent immigrants due to the lack of training among the teachers. According to Guo, “in their daily encounters with cultural diversity, many teachers still confront many challenges. One of the challenges is the fear of diversity and the fear of Muslims, particularly after the September 11the event, partially resulting from a lack of knowledge and readiness to approach cultural and religious diversity” (122). Many teachers do not feel prepared to deal with diversity in their classroom without proper training, on top of that most teachers are often overwhelmed by their class size which tends to be big as there are not enough funds to accommodate all these immigrants, therefore we often find classes that are bigger than usual. This lack of financial support not only creates inequality in education among immigrants but also among Aboriginal students.
Aboriginal students in Canada face continued underfunding as compared to the provincial institutions and lacked the basic survival requirements. Low level of funds not only effected the educational opportunities for Aboriginal students, but it also impacted their standard of life. According to Barman, in the per-pupil subsidy provided by the federal government, it was assumed that much of the teaching would be through voluntary work. Even then, it was insufficient to offer a minimum standard of everyday life and much fewer material circumstances conducive to learning (67), therefore, the half-day program was used by most schools to endure their presence since they could not afford staff, so boys tended the grounds and ran the farms that fed everyone and girls made all of the school uniforms and did all of the cleanings for the rest of the day. Lack of funding also played a major role in the creation of residential schools because “while some Aboriginal children continued to attend individual public schools up to the time of the First World War and a few thereafter, growing numbers of settlers meant that Aboriginal pupils were no longer essential to most schools’ survival, schools received no funding for Aboriginal pupils, and federal policy discouraged their attendance”(Barman, 62).The British North America Act made Aboriginal peoples ‘wards’ of the federal government, who then funded schooling, health care, and other services in exchange for the Aboriginals’ surrender of their traditional lands and relocation to smaller reserves. According to Barman, the Department of Indian Affairs was in charge of running all aspects of federal policy using reasons similar to that gaining force in the United States. Consequently, two types of residential schools came into being in Canada, boarding schools for younger children and industrial schools for their older siblings (56). By 1900, Aboriginal students were obligated to attend residential schools because provincial institutions favored the settlers. For Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia, “the consequences of federal policy favoring residential schools were particularly poignant, for it removed an educational option already in place that might have given the children rough equality with their contemporaries across the young province” (Barman, 59). Residential schools have led to inequalities among the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the public-school system because while others were given the opportunity to receive a formal education, Aboriginal people had no choice and were forced to enroll in residential schools where they were stripped of their identity and culture just because of their Indigenous status.
Processes of Gender Segmentation and Reproduction
Another reproduction of Inequality in education exists through individuals of different gender. However, while this inequality is not evident at the beginning of a school year, it progresses as the year goes on. Students are exposed to gender segmentation directly and indirectly within educational platforms, operating in combination with other factors as preconceptions held by parents and peers, gender-specific role models, and distorted media representations. Along with inadequate curricular materials, teacher biases, insufficient school support, and classroom practices, schools reinforce stereotypical or segmented gender expectations that influence the production of distinct educational paths or careers for male and female students. Schools have taken proactive measures to reduce discrimination of gender but “despite the availability of an array of educational, career, and personal options that exceeds opportunities open to previous generations, adolescent girls are still under considerable pressure to present themselves in a manner that is at once assertive and modest, assessed against physical and behavioral standards that may be incompatible with one another and difficult to achieve”(Wotherspoon, 251). Although there have been some advances regarding women’s education, most women are still at a disadvantage compared to men when it comes to their career life and that can be linked to the consequences of the gender-biased faced in education in the early years. Individuals of different gender were not the only ones who faced inequality in education as discrimination in education occurs through students with disabilities aswell.
Students with Disabilities
According to Wotherspoon, “people with disabilities have been one of the least well-served groups in the long-term quest for equitable educational and social participation. Misunderstanding, dis-crimination, and exclusion from school, work, and other core spheres of social life are common experiences among persons with disabilities (285). Many students with disabilities do not receive equal opportunities in education as schools are not equipped with the technological advances needed to support these students. Also, the necessary resources needed to accommodate these students exceeds the funds available, therefore, most schools fail to accommodate students with learning disabilities. Wotherspoon states that a substantial gap exists in university participation rates between students identified as having a disability and those not so identified, though students with disabilities are slightly less likely than those who cannot pursue post-secondary studies at the college level (285). Educational institutions have not put in place comprehensive policies and services guided by principles of realistic accommodation, which pursue proper physical provisions, supports, and practices to make sure that each individual with a disability will be able to partake fully in all educational events. Most children and youth with more severe disabilities or limited physical or intellectual activities are more likely to be placed in special programs as schools do not have the means to support them.
The growth of the education system and widening of ideas of educational opportunity over the past century have resulted in substantial gains in educational attainment among nearly all sectors of the population. In summary, education is an essential ingredient in most recipes for success, sometimes as a contributing factor but more often as part of an overall package associated with relative privilege or disadvantage. While, several policies and organizational changes, such as improved educational access for minorities, education equity initiatives, diverse cultures, teacher training for greater sensitivity to the educational needs of distinct categories of learners, and inclusive curricula, have improved the educational opportunities for all students, many students of different gender, race and ability are still subject to discrimination within school as schools continuously fail to accommodate these students to due lack of funding, gender-biased and failure to keep up with technological advances all contributes to the reproduction of inequality within education.