Why Access to Education is Key to Systemic Equality

A professor holding a lecture to a group of students.

All students have a right to an equal education, but students of color — particularly Black and Brown students and students with disabilities, have historically been marginalized and criminalized by the public school system. The ACLU has been working to challenge unconstitutional disciplinary policies in schools, combat classroom censorship efforts that disproportionately impact marginalized students, and support race conscious admission policies to increase access to higher education.

Let’s break down why education equity is critical to the fight for systemic equality.

What does “education equity” mean, and why is it a civil rights issue?

Education equity means all students have equal access to a high quality education, safe learning environment, and a diverse student body that enriches the educational experiences of all students.

As the Supreme Court said in Brown v. Board of Education , education “is the very foundation of good citizenship.” Through education, young people learn important values about our culture and democratic society, and about their own values and relationships to others in this society. In addition to being an important foundation for kids’ and young adults’ future professional success, education allows individuals to be informed voters and participants in democratic processes, and public education is the first experience most people will have with the government.

For all of these reasons, equity in education is a critical foundation for a democratic society in which people of all backgrounds are equally included. Without equal opportunities to obtain an education, they will not be able to participate equally in jobs, in voting, and in other crucial areas of life. And when students are not able to learn together, this harms their ability to work together and live and engage with one another later in life.

What was the foundational Supreme Court case aimed at addressing discrimination in education nationwide?

Modern understandings of educational equity have their roots in Brown v. Board of Education , the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision that ordered an end to school segregation and held racial segregation in education violates the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution. The ACLU played an important role in the Brown litigation, and has continued to fight for education equity on many fronts in the decades since.

What is the “school-to-prison pipeline”?

The school-to-prison pipeline refers to school discipline practices, such as suspensions and referrals to law enforcement, that funnel youth out of the classroom and into the juvenile and criminal legal systems.

This trend reflects our country’s prioritization of incarceration over education, and it’s made worse as resources for public schools are cut. From inadequate resources for counseling to an overreliance on school-based police officers to enforce harsh zero-tolerance policies, many students — overwhelmingly students of color and students with disabilities — are isolated, punished, and pushed out of our education system for typical childish behavior and behaviors associated with disabilities.

education equality articles

Cops and No Counselors

How the lack of school mental health staff is harming students.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union

Even a single suspension or disciplinary infraction can have enormous consequences for a child’s education. As a student is pushed further down the school-to-prison pipeline, those consequences escalate quickly. In some jurisdictions, students who have been suspended or expelled have no right to an education at all. In others, they are sent to disciplinary alternative schools.Youth who become involved in the juvenile system are often denied procedural protections in the courts, and students pushed along the pipeline find themselves in juvenile detention facilities, many of which provide few, if any, educational services.

How are Black students, students of color, and students with disabilities disproportionately impacted by discrimination in education? What barriers to higher education exist for students of color?

Black and Brown students and students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to discipline and referrals to law enforcement that remove them from the classroom and subject them to additional punitive consequences and even physical injury. For example, over the 2017-2018 school year, Black students accounted for 28.7 percent of all students referred to law enforcement and 31.6 percent of all students arrested at school or during a school-related activity — despite representing just 15.1 percent of the total enrolled student population.

Our country’s schools are increasingly diverse, but also increasingly segregated . Students of all races are harmed by the inability to learn with one another in diverse school settings. Black and Latine students are also more likely to attend schools that are intensely segregated both by race and by socioeconomic status. Students of color are also less likely to have access to advanced courses, and are frequently tracked away from college preparatory courses when they do exist.

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Moving Beyond the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Rulings

The work to ensure educational opportunities for people of color continues, despite the court’s decision.

Inequities in K-12 education can be replicated in college and university admissions criteria. As with elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities are required to ensure that educational opportunities are open to all students from the application stage and through student’s experiences during their college education. There are a wide range of things that colleges and universities can do to ensure that educational opportunities are open to people of all backgrounds.

What non-punitive responses should schools take when approaching school discipline issues? What non-punitive resources should schools invest in?

There are a range of evidence-based methods schools can use to respond to the behavioral needs of students. These range from strategies that teachers and schools can use to foster a positive learning culture and model, to interventions addressing particular disciplinary issues, such as conflict de-escalation or restorative justice, to using functional behavioral assessments and wraparound support for those students with higher levels of need.

Additionally, schools that employed more mental health providers saw improved student engagement and graduation rates . Schools that used other types of support, including restorative and trauma-informed practices, saw beneficial results, including reduced disciplinary incidents, suspensions, dropouts, and expulsions. Investing in mental health resources, support personnel, and interventions that promote positive student interactions can make schools safer and healthier learning environments, while also helping to combat the discriminatory school-to-prison pipeline that targets students of color and students with disabilities.

How do classroom censorship efforts (i.e. laws that block students and teachers from talking and learning about race and gender) lead to inequality in education?

Instruction about racism and sexism belongs in schools because it equips students to process the world around them and to live in a multicultural society.

Attacks on education have morphed from demands to exclude critical race theory from classrooms to ever-increasingly devious and dangerous demands to erase entire concepts from American history. Book bans, so-called transparency laws designed to intimidate educators into compliance, and attacks on individual expression have left our education system at the mercy of a hostile and discriminatory minority. Students can’t learn in that type of environment. Our future depends on educational institutions that value instruction about systemic racism and sexism. We need to expand culturally relevant instruction and increase funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools, not attack it for its role in uplifting the systematically oppressed.

What can colleges do to ensure they create opportunities for students of color in light of the recent Supreme Court decision effectively eliminating the use of affirmative action in college admissions?

Affirmative action in college admissions has been an important tool, but it is not the only avenue for ensuring that educational opportunities are open to all. In the absence of affirmative action, it is more important than ever that schools work to identify and remove inequitable barriers to higher education. At a minimum, schools must continue to comply with federal and state civil rights laws that require them to provide educational opportunities on an equal basis. They can achieve this by ensuring that policies and practices do not unnecessarily limit opportunities for people on the basis of race or ethnicity (or other protected characteristics, including disability, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity) and by ensuring that school climate enables all students to access and engage with educational opportunities .

What does the ACLU’s work in education equity look like today?

The ACLU and our affiliates around the country are challenging disciplinary policies that disparately target students of color and students with disabilities and infringe on their right to a safe learning environment. This includes litigation, such as our recent victory resulting in the end to charging students with “disorderly conduct” or “disturbing schools” in South Carolina schools, and advocacy, such as the ACLU of Idaho’s recent report Proud to be Brown and the related civil rights complaint. The report documents how school districts in Idaho are jeopardizing Latine students’ civil rights and liberties by enforcing “gang” dress codes that target mostly Latine students in a discriminatory way, and have negative consequences on their cultural identity, discipline, and education.

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CYAP v. Wilson

The ACLU Union filed a federal lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s “disturbing schools” law.

We are also fighting back against efforts to ban books and restrict what students can learn about race, gender, and sexual orientation. In Florida, for example, we’re challenging the state’s harmful Stop WOKE Act. We continue to press for equity in higher education following the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action, and defend against attacks on diversity in K-12 schools.

From K-12 to higher education, the ACLU is working to combat discrimination in education and ensure all people have equal access to safe, quality education.

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Why Is Education So Important in The Quest for Equality?

Gerald Nelson | April 14, 2022 | Leave a Comment

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Image: Pikist

Education is vital. We can all agree on this but where we fall out of the agreement is why exactly education is so necessary for equality. Without education, there can be no progress, no development, and no improvement. 

In today’s world, we are ever more aware of the issues surrounding sexism, racism, and inequality, allowing for a greater understanding of the importance of educating people to avoid these biases occurring in the first place.

What is Educational Equality and why is it necessary? 

Equality isn’t always so simple. Some may assume, for example, that educational equality is as simple as providing children with the same resources. In reality, however, there’s a lot more to it than this. We will check what governments are doing to achieve this goal. What actions they are taking to advance the cause of equality? Education is crucial because it’s a toolkit for success:

  • With literacy and numeracy comes confidence, with which comes self-respect. And by having self-respect, you can respect others, their accomplishments, and their cultures.
  • Education is the fundamental tool for achieving social, economic, and civil rights – something which all societies strive to achieve.

Educational Inequality is usually defined as the unequal distribution of educational resources among different groups in society. The situation becomes serious when it starts influencing how people live their lives. For example, children will be less likely to go to school if they are not healthy, or educated because other things are more urgent in their life.

Categorical Educational Inequality

Categorical Education Inequality is especially apparent when comparing minority/low-income schools with majority/high-income schools. Are better-off students systematically favored in getting ahead? There are three plausible conditions:

  • Higher-income parents can spend more time and money on private tutoring, school trips, and home study materials to give their children better opportunities. Therefore, better-off students have an advantage due to access to better schools, computers, technology, etc. (the so-called opportunity gap).
  • Low-income schools lack the resources to educate their students. Therefore their students tend to have worse educational outcomes.
  • Although the public school system is a government-funded program to allow all students an equal chance at a good education, this is not the case for most schools across third world countries – see UNESCO statistics below:

education equality articles

How Educational Inequality is fueling global issues

Educational inequality is a major global crisis. It has played a role in economic problems, amplified the political deadlock, exacerbated the environmental predicament, and threatens to worsen the human rights crisis. If equality in education is not addressed directly, these crises will only deepen because: 

  • Educational Inequality is also about  race and gender . Those who are less privileged are condemned to poverty and unemployment because of a lack of quality educational resources. 
  • Without a sound education, people have  less knowledge  of the world around them or the issues facing their communities. They are less likely to vote or to pay attention to politics. This leaves them vulnerable to manipulation by those who represent narrow interests and promote fear, hatred, and violence. The result is an erosion of democratic values and an increase in authoritarianism.
  • Without correction,  human rights abuses  will continue due to a lack of legal representation among those with no or low education levels.
  • Poverty, unemployment, crimes, and health issues: A lack of education and skills forces children into poverty because they can’t get jobs or start a business. It also leaves them without hope and is one of the reasons for unemployment, lower life expectancy, malnutrition, a higher chance of chronic diseases, and crime rates.
  • Limited opportunities: The most significant issue is that lack of education reduces the opportunities for people to have a decent life. Limited options increase the division of social classes, lower social mobility, and reduce the ability to build networks and social contacts. Students in poor countries also spend a lot of time working to support their families rather than focusing on their school work. These factors also worsen the upbringing of coming generations.
  • Extremism:  Inequality can also lead to increased violence, racism, gender bias, and extremism, which causes further economic and democratic challenges.  
  • Inability to survive pandemics:  Unlike developed nations after COVID, underdeveloped countries are stuck in their unstable economic cycles. Inequality causes a lack of awareness and online educational resources, lower acceptance of preventive measures, and unaffordable vaccines, for example. According to the  United Nations , “Before the coronavirus crisis, projections showed that  more than 200 million children would be out of school , and only 60 percent of young people would be completing upper secondary education in 2030”.
  • Unawareness of technological advancements: The world is becoming more tech-savvy, while students in underdeveloped countries remain unaware of the latest technological achievements as well as unable to implement them. This also widens the education gap between countries.
  • Gender inequality in education:  In general, developing countries compromise over funds allocation for women’s education to manage their depletion of national income. As such, they consider women less efficient and productive than men. Meanwhile, many parents do not prefer sending their daughters to school because they do not think that women can contribute equally to men in the country’s development. However, if we have to overcome this, there should be an increase in funding and scholarships for women’s education.
  • Environmental crises:  People are usually less aware of the harmful emissions produced in their surroundings and are therefore less prepared to deal with increased pollution levels. This also affects climate change. The less educated the children, the more likely they are to contribute to climate change as adults. This is because education is not just about learning facts and skills but also about recognizing problems and applying knowledge in innovative ways. 
  • A child who has dropped out of school will generally  contribute less to society  than a child who has completed secondary school. A child who has completed secondary school will contribute less than a child who went to university. This difference increases over time because those with higher levels of education tend to be more open-minded, flexible thinkers and are therefore better able to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Equality in education is therefore essential for addressing international issues including economic inequality, climate change, social deprivation, and access to healthcare. Many children in poor regions are deprived of education (see chart below) which is the only way out of poverty .

education equality articles

Proposed Solutions 

The United Nations Development Program says that access to education is a human right, and should be individually accessible and available to all by 2030. It demands:

  • International collaborations to ensure that every child has the same quality education and to develop joint curricula and academic programs. The quality of teaching methodologies should not be compromised and includes providing financial assistance and tools for equal access.
  • Running campaigns to discourage race, gender, and ethnicity differences, arranging more seminars to reach low-income groups, and providing adequate financial assistance, training, and part-time jobs for sole earners.  
  • Modifying scholarship criteria to better support deserving students who cannot afford university due to language tests and low grades. 
  • Increasing the minimum wage so that sole breadwinners can afford quality education for their children.  
  • Schools should bear transportation costs and offer free grants to deserving kids from low-income families.
  • Giving more attention to slum-side schools by updating and implementing new techniques and resources. 
  • Allowing students to learn in their own language with no enforcement of international languages and offering part-time courses in academies and community colleges in other languages. 

Resolving educational inequality has many benefits for the wider society. Allowing children from disadvantaged backgrounds to get an education will help them find better jobs with higher salaries, improving their quality of life, and making them more productive members of society. It decreases the likelihood of conflict and increases access to health care, stable economic growth, and unlimited opportunities.


It’s been said that great minds start out as small ones. To level the playing field, we need to focus on best educating our next generation of innovators and leaders, both from an individual and a societal standpoint. If we want equality to become a reality, it will be up to us to ensure that equality is at the forefront of our education system.


Environmental Conscience: 42 Causes, Effects & Solutions for a Lack of Education – E&C (environmental-conscience.com)

School of Education Online Programs: What the U.S. Education System Needs to Reduce Inequality | American University

Educational Inequality: Solutions | Educational Inequality (wordpress.com)

Giving Compass: Seven Solutions for Education Inequality · Giving Compass

Science.org: Polarization under rising inequality and economic decline

Research Gate: Inequality and Economic Growth

University of Munich: pdf (uni-muenchen.de)

Research Gate: Effects-of-inequality-and-poverty-vs-teachers-and-schooling-on-Americas-youth.pdf (researchgate.net)

Borgen Magzine

United Nations: Education as the Pathway towards Gender Equality

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – Education

This article has been edited in line with our guidelines

Gerald Nelson is a freelance academic essay writer at perfectessaywriting.com who also works with several e ducational and human rights organizations. 

The MAHB Blog is a venture of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. Questions should be directed to [email protected]

The Ongoing Challenges, and Possible Solutions, to Improving Educational Equity

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Schools across the country were already facing major equity challenges before the pandemic, but the disruptions it caused exacerbated them.

After students came back to school buildings after more than a year of hybrid schooling, districts were dealing with discipline challenges and re-segregating schools. In a national EdWeek Research Center survey from October, 65 percent of the 824 teachers, and school and district leaders surveyed said they were more concerned now than before the pandemic about closing academic opportunity gaps that impact learning for students of different races, socioeconomic levels, disability categories, and English-learner statuses.

But educators trying to prioritize equity have an uphill battle to overcome these challenges, especially in the face of legislation and school policies attempting to fight equity initiatives across the country.

The pandemic and the 2020 murder of George Floyd drove many districts to recognize longstanding racial disparities in academics, discipline, and access to resources and commit to addressing them. But in 2021, a backlash to such equity initiatives accelerated, and has now resulted in 18 states passing laws restricting lessons on race and racism, and many also passing laws restricting the rights and well-being of LGBTQ students.

This slew of Republican-driven legislation presents a new hurdle for districts looking to address racial and other inequities in public schools.

During an Education Week K-12 Essentials forum last week, journalists, educators, and researchers talked about these challenges, and possible solutions to improving equity in education.

Takeru Nagayoshi, who was the Massachusetts teacher of the year in 2020, and one of the speakers at the forum, said he never felt represented as a gay, Asian kid in public school until he read about the Stonewall Riots, the Civil Rights Movement, and the full history of marginalized groups working together to change systems of oppression.

“Those are the learning experiences that inspired me to be a teacher and to commit to a life of making our country better for everyone,” he said.

“Our students really benefit the most when they learn about themselves and the world that they’re in. They’re in a safe space with teachers who provide them with an honest education and accurate history.”

Here are some takeaways from the discussion:

Schools are still heavily segregated

Almost 70 years after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, most students attend schools where they see a majority of other students of their racial demographics .

Black students, who accounted for 15 percent of public school enrollment in 2019, attended schools where Black students made up an average of 47 percent of enrollment, according to a UCLA report.

They attended schools with a combined Black and Latinx enrollment averaging 67 percent, while Latinx students attended schools with a combined Black and Latinx enrollment averaging 66 percent.

Overall, the proportion of schools where the majority of students are not white increased from 14.8 percent of schools in 2003 to 18.2 percent in 2016.

“Predominantly minority schools [get] fewer resources, and that’s one problem, but there’s another problem too, and it’s a sort of a problem for democracy,” said John Borkowski, education lawyer at Husch Blackwell.

“I think it’s much better for a multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy, when people have opportunities to interact with one another, to learn together, you know, and you see all of the problems we’ve had in recent years with the rising of white supremacy, and white supremacist groups.”

School discipline issues were exacerbated because of student trauma

In the absence of national data on school discipline, anecdotal evidence and expert interviews suggest that suspensions—both in and out of school—and expulsions, declined when students went remote.

In 2021, the number of incidents increased again when most students were back in school buildings, but were still lower than pre-pandemic levels , according to research by Richard Welsh, an associate professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education.

But forum attendees, who were mostly district and school leaders as well as teachers, disagreed, with 66 percent saying that the pandemic made school incidents warranting discipline worse. That’s likely because of heightened student trauma from the pandemic. Eighty-three percent of forum attendees who responded to a spot survey said they had noticed an increase in behavioral issues since resuming in-person school.

Restorative justice in education is gaining popularity

One reason Welsh thought discipline incidents did not yet surpass pre-pandemic levels despite heightened student trauma is the adoption of restorative justice practices, which focus on conflict resolution, understanding the causes of students’ disruptive behavior, and addressing the reason behind it instead of handing out punishments.

Kansas City Public Schools is one example of a district that has had improvement with restorative justice, with about two thirds of the district’s 35 schools seeing a decrease in suspensions and expulsions in 2021 compared with 2019.

Forum attendees echoed the need for or success of restorative justice, with 36 percent of those who answered a poll within the forum saying restorative justice works in their district or school, and 27 percent saying they wished their district would implement some of its tenets.

However, 12 percent of poll respondents also said that restorative justice had not worked for them. Racial disparities in school discipline also still persist, despite restorative justice being implemented, which indicates that those practices might not be ideal for addressing the over-disciplining of Black, Latinx, and other historically marginalized students.

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Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs an education overhaul bill into law, March 8, 2023, at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. On Monday, March 25, 2024, a high school teacher and two students sued Arkansas over the state's ban on critical race theory and “indoctrination” in public schools, asking a federal judge to strike down the restrictions as unconstitutional.

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Primary school math students in the MatiTec program in Santa Fe, Mexico City, 20 March 2012. Talento Tec. Wikimedia Commons

Recognizing and Overcoming Inequity in Education

About the author, sylvia schmelkes.

Sylvia Schmelkes is Provost of the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.

22 January 2020 Introduction

I nequity is perhaps the most serious problem in education worldwide. It has multiple causes, and its consequences include differences in access to schooling, retention and, more importantly, learning. Globally, these differences correlate with the level of development of various countries and regions. In individual States, access to school is tied to, among other things, students' overall well-being, their social origins and cultural backgrounds, the language their families speak, whether or not they work outside of the home and, in some countries, their sex. Although the world has made progress in both absolute and relative numbers of enrolled students, the differences between the richest and the poorest, as well as those living in rural and urban areas, have not diminished. 1

These correlations do not occur naturally. They are the result of the lack of policies that consider equity in education as a principal vehicle for achieving more just societies. The pandemic has exacerbated these differences mainly due to the fact that technology, which is the means of access to distance schooling, presents one more layer of inequality, among many others.

The dimension of educational inequity

Around the world, 258 million, or 17 per cent of the world’s children, adolescents and youth, are out of school. The proportion is much larger in developing countries: 31 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and 21 per cent in Central Asia, vs. 3 per cent in Europe and North America. 2  Learning, which is the purpose of schooling, fares even worse. For example, it would take 15-year-old Brazilian students 75 years, at their current rate of improvement, to reach wealthier countries’ average scores in math, and more than 260 years in reading. 3 Within countries, learning results, as measured through standardized tests, are almost always much lower for those living in poverty. In Mexico, for example, 80 per cent of indigenous children at the end of primary school don’t achieve basic levels in reading and math, scoring far below the average for primary school students. 4

The causes of educational inequity

There are many explanations for educational inequity. In my view, the most important ones are the following:

  • Equity and equality are not the same thing. Equality means providing the same resources to everyone. Equity signifies giving more to those most in need. Countries with greater inequity in education results are also those in which governments distribute resources according to the political pressure they experience in providing education. Such pressures come from families in which the parents attended school, that reside in urban areas, belong to cultural majorities and who have a clear appreciation of the benefits of education. Much less pressure comes from rural areas and indigenous populations, or from impoverished urban areas. In these countries, fewer resources, including infrastructure, equipment, teachers, supervision and funding, are allocated to the disadvantaged, the poor and cultural minorities.
  • Teachers are key agents for learning. Their training is crucial.  When insufficient priority is given to either initial or in-service teacher training, or to both, one can expect learning deficits. Teachers in poorer areas tend to have less training and to receive less in-service support.
  • Most countries are very diverse. When a curriculum is overloaded and is the same for everyone, some students, generally those from rural areas, cultural minorities or living in poverty find little meaning in what is taught. When the language of instruction is different from their native tongue, students learn much less and drop out of school earlier.
  • Disadvantaged students frequently encounter unfriendly or overtly offensive attitudes from both teachers and classmates. Such attitudes are derived from prejudices, stereotypes, outright racism and sexism. Students in hostile environments are affected in their disposition to learn, and many drop out early.

The Universidad Iberoamericana, main campus in Sante Fe, Mexico City, Mexico. 6 April 2013. Joaogabriel, CC BY-SA 3.0

It doesn’t have to be like this

When left to inertial decision-making, education systems seem to be doomed to reproduce social and economic inequity. The commitment of both governments and societies to equity in education is both necessary and possible. There are several examples of more equitable educational systems in the world, and there are many subnational examples of successful policies fostering equity in education.

Why is equity in education important?

Education is a basic human right. More than that, it is an enabling right in the sense that, when respected, allows for the fulfillment of other human rights. Education has proven to affect general well-being, productivity, social capital, responsible citizenship and sustainable behaviour. Its equitable distribution allows for the creation of permeable societies and equity. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. One hundred eighty-four countries are committed to achieving this goal over the next decade. 5  The process of walking this road together has begun and requires impetus to continue, especially now that we must face the devastating consequences of a long-lasting pandemic. Further progress is crucial for humanity.

Notes  1 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization , Inclusive Education. All Means All , Global Education Monitoring Report 2020 (Paris, 2020), p.8. Available at https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/report/2020/inclusion . 2 Ibid., p. 4, 7. 3 World Bank Group, World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education's Promise (Washington, DC, 2018), p. 3. Available at https://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/wdr2018 .  4 Instituto Nacional para la Evaluación de la Educación, "La educación obligatoria en México", Informe 2018 (Ciudad de México, 2018), p. 72. Available online at https://www.inee.edu.mx/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/P1I243.pdf . 5 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization , “Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4” (2015), p. 23. Available at  https://iite.unesco.org/publications/education-2030-incheon-declaration-framework-action-towards-inclusive-equitable-quality-education-lifelong-learning/   The UN Chronicle  is not an official record. It is privileged to host senior United Nations officials as well as distinguished contributors from outside the United Nations system whose views are not necessarily those of the United Nations. Similarly, the boundaries and names shown, and the designations used, in maps or articles do not necessarily imply endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.   

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Still Separate, Still Unequal: Teaching about School Segregation and Educational Inequality

education equality articles

By Keith Meatto

  • May 2, 2019

Racial segregation in public education has been illegal for 65 years in the United States. Yet American public schools remain largely separate and unequal — with profound consequences for students, especially students of color.

Today’s teachers and students should know that the Supreme Court declared racial segregation in schools to be unconstitutional in the landmark 1954 ruling Brown v. Board of Education . Perhaps less well known is the extent to which American schools are still segregated. According to a recent Times article , “More than half of the nation’s schoolchildren are in racially concentrated districts, where over 75 percent of students are either white or nonwhite.” In addition, school districts are often segregated by income. The nexus of racial and economic segregation has intensified educational gaps between rich and poor students, and between white students and students of color.

Although many students learn about the historical struggles to desegregate schools in the civil rights era, segregation as a current reality is largely absent from the curriculum.

“No one is really talking about school segregation anymore,” Elise C. Boddie and Dennis D. Parker wrote in this 2018 Op-Ed essay. “That’s a shame because an abundance of research shows that integration is still one of the most effective tools that we have for achieving racial equity.”

The teaching activities below, written directly to students, use recent Times articles as a way to grapple with segregation and educational inequality in the present. This resource considers three essential questions:

• How and why are schools still segregated in 2019? • What repercussions do segregated schools have for students and society? • What are potential remedies to address school segregation?

School segregation and educational inequity may be a sensitive and uncomfortable topic for students and teachers, regardless of their race, ethnicity or economic status. Nevertheless, the topics below offer entry points to an essential conversation, one that affects every American student and raises questions about core American ideals of equality and fairness.

Six Activities for Students to Investigate School Segregation and Educational Inequality

Activity #1: Warm-Up: Visualize segregation and inequality in education.

Based on civil rights data released by the United States Department of Education, the nonprofit news organization ProPublica has built an interactive database to examine racial disparities in educational opportunities and school discipline. In this activity, which might begin a deeper study of school segregation, you can look up your own school district, or individual public or charter school, to see how it compares with its counterparts.

To get started: Scroll down to the interactive map of the United States in this ProPublica database and then answer the following questions:

1. Click the tabs “Opportunity,” “Discipline,” “Segregation” and “Achievement Gap” and answer these two simple questions: What do you notice? What do you wonder? (These are the same questions we ask as part of our “ What’s Going On in This Graph? ” weekly discussions.) 2. Next, click the tabs “Black” and “Hispanic.” What do you notice? What do you wonder? 3. Search for your school or district in the database. What do you notice in the results? What questions do you have?

For Further Exploration

Research your own school district. Then write an essay, create an oral presentation or make an annotated map on segregation and educational inequity in your community, using data from the Miseducation database.

Activity #2: Explore a case study: schools in Charlottesville, Va.

The New York Times and ProPublica investigated how segregation still plays a role in shaping students’ educational experiences in the small Virginia city of Charlottesville. The article begins:

Zyahna Bryant and Trinity Hughes, high school seniors, have been friends since they were 6, raised by blue-collar families in this affluent college town. They played on the same T-ball and softball teams, and were in the same church group. But like many African-American children in Charlottesville, Trinity lived on the south side of town and went to a predominantly black neighborhood elementary school. Zyahna lived across the train tracks, on the north side, and was zoned to a mostly white school, near the University of Virginia campus, that boasts the city’s highest reading scores.

Before you read the rest of the article, and learn about the experiences of Zyahna and Trinity, answer the following questions based on your own knowledge, experience and opinions:

• What is the purpose of public education? • Do all children in America receive the same quality of education? • Is receiving a quality public education a right (for everyone) or a privilege (for some)? • Is there a correlation between students’ race and the quality of education they receive?

Now read the entire article about lingering segregation in Charlottesville and answer the following questions:

1. How is Charlottesville’s school district geographically and racially segregated? 2. How is Charlottesville a microcosm of education in America? 3. How do white and black students in Charlottesville compare in terms of participation in gifted and talented programs; being held back a grade; being suspended from school? 4. How do black and white students in Charlottesville compare in terms of reading at grade level? 5. How do Charlottesville school officials explain the disparities between white and black students? 6. Why are achievement disparities so common in college towns? 7. In what ways do socioeconomics not fully explain the gap between white and black students?

After reading the article and answering the above questions, share your reactions using the following prompts:

• Did anything in the article surprise you? Shock you? Make you angry or sad? Why? • On the other hand, did anything in the article strike you as unsurprising? Explain. • How might education in Charlottesville be made more equitable?

Choose one or more of the following ideas to investigate school segregation in the United States and around the world.

1. Read and discuss “ In a Divided Bosnia, Segregated Schools Persist .” Compare and contrast the situations in Bosnia and Charlottesville. How does this perspective confirm, challenge, or complicate your understanding of the topic?

2. Read and discuss the article and study the map and graphs in “ Why Are New York’s Schools Segregated? It’s Not as Simple as Housing .” How does “school choice” confirm, challenge or complicate your understanding of segregation and educational inequity?

3. Only a tiny number of black students were offered admission to the highly selective public high schools in New York City in 2019, raising the pressure on officials to confront the decades-old challenge of integrating New York’s elite public schools. To learn more about this story, listen to this episode of The Daily . For more information, read these Op-Ed essays and editorials offering different perspectives on the problem and possible solutions. Then, make a case for what should be done — or not done — to make New York’s elite public schools more diverse.

• Stop Fixating on One Elite High School, Stuyvesant. There Are Bigger Problems. • How Elite Schools Stay So White • No Ethnic Group Owns Stuyvesant. All New Yorkers Do. • De Blasio’s Plan for NYC Schools Isn’t Anti-Asian. It’s Anti-Racist. • New York’s Best Schools Need to Do Better

3. Read and discuss “ The Resegregation of Jefferson County .” How does this story confirm, challenge or complicate your understanding of the topic?

Activity #3: Investigate the relationship between school segregation, funding and inequality.

Some school districts have more money to spend on education than others. Does this funding inequality have anything to do with lingering segregation in public schools? A recent report says yes. A New York Times article published in February begins:

School districts that predominantly serve students of color received $23 billion less in funding than mostly white school districts in the United States in 2016, despite serving the same number of students, a new report found. The report, released this week by the nonprofit EdBuild, put a dollar amount on the problem of school segregation, which has persisted long after Brown v. Board of Education and was targeted in recent lawsuits in states from New Jersey to Minnesota. The estimate also came as teachers across the country have protested and gone on strike to demand more funding for public schools.

Answer the following questions based on your own knowledge, experience and opinions.

• Who pays for public schools? • Is there a correlation between money and education? Does the amount of money a school spends on students influence the quality of the education students receive?

Now read the rest of the Times article about funding differences between mostly white school districts and mostly nonwhite ones, and then answer the following questions:

1. How much less total funding do school districts that serve predominantly students of color receive compared to school districts that serve predominantly white students? 2. Why are school district borders problematic? 3. How many of the nation’s schoolchildren are in “racially concentrated districts, where over 75 percent of students are either white or nonwhite”? 4. How much less money, on average, do nonwhite districts receive than white districts? 5. How are school districts funded? 6. How does lack of school funding affect classrooms? 7. What is the new kind of ”white flight” in Arizona and why is it a problem? 8. What is an “enclave”? What does the statement “some school districts have become their own enclaves” mean?

• Did anything in the article surprise you? Shock you? Make you angry or sad? Why? • On the other hand, did anything in the article strike you as unsurprising? Explain. • How could school funding be made more equitable?

Choose one or more of the following ideas to investigate the interrelationship among school segregation, funding and inequality.

1. Research your local school district budget, using public records or local media, such as newspapers or television reporting. What is the budget per student? How does that budget compare with the state average? The national average? 2. Compare your findings about your local school budget to your research about segregation and student outcomes, using the Miseducation database. Do the results of your research suggest any correlations?

Activity #4: Examine potential legal remedies to school segregation and educational inequality.

How do we get better schools for all children? One way might be to take the state to court. A Times article from August reports on a wave of lawsuits that argue that states are violating their constitutions by denying children a quality education. The article begins:

By his own account, Alejandro Cruz-Guzman’s five children have received a good education at public schools in St. Paul. His two oldest daughters are starting careers in finance and teaching. Another daughter, a high-school student, plans to become a doctor. But their success, Mr. Cruz-Guzman said, flows partly from the fact that he and his wife fought for their children to attend racially integrated schools outside their neighborhood. Their two youngest children take a bus 30 minutes each way to Murray Middle School, where the student population is about one-third white, one-third black, 16 percent Asian and 9 percent Latino. “I wanted to have my kids exposed to different cultures and learn from different people,” said Mr. Cruz-Guzman, who owns a small flooring company and is an immigrant from Mexico. When his two oldest children briefly attended a charter school that was close to 100 percent Latino, he said he had realized, “We are limiting our kids to one community.” Now Mr. Cruz-Guzman is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit saying that Minnesota knowingly allowed towns and cities to set policies and zoning boundaries that led to segregated schools, lowering test scores and graduation rates for low-income and nonwhite children.

Read the entire article and then answer the following questions:

1. What does Mr. Cruz-Guzman’s suit allege against the State of Minnesota? 2. Why are advocates for school funding equity focused on state government, as opposed to the federal government? 3. What did a state judge rule in New Mexico? What did the Kansas Supreme Court rule? 4. What fraction of fourth and eighth graders in New Mexico is not proficient in reading? What does research suggest may improve their test scores? 5. According to a 2016 study, if a school spends 10 percent more per pupil, what percentage more would students earn as adults? 6. What does the economist Eric Hanushek argue about the correlation between spending and student achievement? 7. What remedy for school segregation is Daniel Shulman, the lead lawyer in the Minnesota desegregation suit, considering? Why are charter schools nervous about the case? 8. How does Khulia Pringle see some charter schools as “culturally affirming”? What problems does Ms. Pringle see with busing white children to black schools and vice versa?

• Did anything in the article surprise you? What other emotional responses did you have while reading? Why? • On the other hand, did anything in the article strike you as unsurprising? Explain. • Do the potential “cultural” benefits of school segregation outweigh the costs?

Choose one or more of the following ideas to investigate potential remedies to school segregation and educational inequality.

1. Read the obituaries “ Jean Fairfax, Unsung but Undeterred in Integrating Schools, Dies at 98 ” and “ Linda Brown, Symbol of Landmark Desegregation Case, Dies at 75 .” How do their lives inform your grasp of legal challenges to segregation?

2. Watch the following video about school busing . How does this history inform your understanding of the benefits and challenges of busing?

3. Read about how parents in two New York City school districts are trying to tackle segregation in local middle schools . Then decide if these models have potential for other districts in New York or around the country. Why or why not?

Activity #5: Consider alternatives to integration.

Is integration the best and only choice for families who feel their children are being denied a quality education? A recent Times article reports on how some black families in New York City are choosing an alternative to integration. The article begins:

“I love myself!” the group of mostly black children shouted in unison. “I love my hair, I love my skin!” When it was time to settle down, their teacher raised her fist in a black power salute. The students did the same, and the room hushed. As children filed out of the cramped school auditorium on their way to class, they walked by posters of Colin Kaepernick and Harriet Tubman. It was a typical morning at Ember Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, an Afrocentric school that sits in a squat building on a quiet block in a neighborhood long known as a center of black political power. Though New York City has tried to desegregate its schools in fits and starts since the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the school system is now one of the most segregated in the nation. But rather than pushing for integration, some black parents in Bedford-Stuyvesant are choosing an alternative: schools explicitly designed for black children.

Before you read the rest of the article, answer the following questions based on your own knowledge, experience and opinions:

• Should voluntary segregation in schools be permissible? Why or why not? • What potential benefits might voluntary segregation offer? • What potential problems might it pose?

Now, read the entire article and then answer these questions:

1. What is the goal of Afrocentric schools? 2. Why are some parents and educators enthusiastic about Afrocentric schools? 3. Why are some experts wary of Afrocentric schools? 4. What does Alisa Nutakor want to offer minority students at Ember? 5. What position does the city’s schools chancellor take on Afrocentric schools? 6. What “modest desegregation plans” have some districts offered? With what result? 7. Why did Fela Barclift found Little Sun People? 8. Why are some parents ambivalent about school integration? According to them, how can schools be more responsive to students of color? 9. What does Mutale Nkonde mean by the phrase “not all boats are rising”? 10. What did Jordan Pierre gain from his experience at Eagle Academy?

• Did anything in the article surprise you? What other emotional responses did you have while reading? Why? • On the other hand, did anything in the article strike you as unsurprising? Explain. • Did the article challenge your opinion about voluntary segregation? How?

Choose one or more of the following ideas to investigate some of the complicating factors that influence where parents decide to send their children to school.

1. Read and discuss “ Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City .” How does reading about segregation, inequity and school choice from a parent’s perspective confirm, challenge or complicate your understanding of the topic?

2. Read “ Do Students Get a Subpar Education in Yeshivas? ” How might a student’s religious affiliation complicate the issue of segregation and inequity in education?

Activity #6: Learn more and take action.

Segregation still persists in public schools more than 60 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. What more can you learn about the issue? What choices can you make? Is there anything students can do about the issue?

Write a personal essay about your experience with school segregation. For inspiration, read Erin Aubrey Kaplan’s op-ed essay, “ School Choice Is the Enemy of Justice ,” which links a contemporary debate with the author’s personal experience of school segregation.

Interview a parent, grandparent or another adult about their educational experiences related to segregation, integration and inequity in education. Compare their experiences with your own. Share your findings in a paper, presentation or class discussion.

Take action by writing a letter about segregation and educational inequity in your community. Send the letter to a person or organization with local influence, such as the school board, an elected official or your local newspaper.

Discuss the issue in your school or district by raising the topic with your student council, parent association or school board. Be prepared with information you discovered in your research and bring relevant questions.

Additional Resources

Choices in Little Rock | Facing History and Ourselves

Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise | PBS

Why Are American Public Schools Still So Segregated? | KQED

Toolkit for “Segregation by Design” | Teaching Tolerance

This is what the racial education gap in the US looks like right now

United States Education Equality Achievement Scores

Racial achievement gaps in the United States has been slow and unsteady. Image:  Unsplash/Santi Vedrí

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education equality articles

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Stay up to date:.

  • Racial achievement gaps in the United States are narrowing, a Stanford University data project shows.
  • But progress has been slow and unsteady – and gaps are still large across much of the country.
  • COVID-19 could widen existing inequalities in education.
  • The World Economic Forum will be exploring the issues around growing income inequality as part of The Jobs Reset Summit .

In the United States today, the average Black and Hispanic students are about three years ahead of where their parents were in maths skills.

They’re roughly two to three years ahead of them in reading, too.

And while white students’ test scores in these subjects have also improved, they’re not rising by as much. This means racial achievement gaps – a key way of monitoring whether all students have access to a good education – in the country are narrowing, research by Stanford University shows.

But while the trend suggests progress is being made in improving racial educational disparities, it doesn’t show the full picture. Progress, the university says, has been slow and uneven.

Have you read?

How can africa prepare its education system for the post-covid world, higher education: do we value degrees in completely the wrong way, this innovative solution is helping indian children get an education during the pandemic.

Standardized tests

Stanford’s Educational Opportunity Monitoring Project uses average standardized test scores for nine-, 13- and 17-year-olds to measure these achievement gaps.

It’s able to do this because the same tests have been used by the National Assessment of Educational Progress to observe maths and reading skills since the 1970s.

Achievement Gap researchers educational equality United States

In the following decades, as the above chart shows, achievement gaps have significantly declined in all age groups and in both maths and reading. But it’s been something of a roller-coaster.

Substantial progress stalled at the end of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s and in some cases the gaps grew larger. Since then, they’ve been declining steadily and are now significantly smaller than they were in the 1970s.

But these gaps are still “very large”. In fact, the difference in standardized test scores between white and Black students currently amounts to roughly two years of education. And the gap between white and Hispanic students is almost as big.

Schools not to blame

This disparity exists across the US. Racial achievement gaps have narrowed in most states – although they’ve widened in a small number. In almost all of the country’s 100 largest school districts , though, there’s a big achievement gap between white and Black students.

White Black Student Achievement Scores Education Equality

So why is this? Stanford says its data doesn’t support the common argument that schools themselves are to blame for low average test scores, which is often made because white students tend to live in wealthier communities where schools are presumed to be better.

In fact, it says, the scores actually represent gaps in educational opportunity, which can be traced back to a child’s early experiences. These experiences are formed at home, in childcare and preschool, and in communities – and they provide opportunities to develop socioemotional and academic capacities.

Higher-income families are more likely to be able to provide these opportunities to their children, so a family’s socioeconomic resources are strongly related to educational outcomes , Stanford says. It notes that in the US, Black and Hispanic children’s parents typically have lower incomes and levels of educational attainment than those of white children.

Other factors, such as patterns of residential and school segregation and a state’s educational and social policies, could also have a role in the size of achievement gaps.

And discipline could play its part, too, according to another Stanford study. It linked the achievement gap between Black and white students to the fact that the former are punished more harshly for similar misbehaviour, for example being more likely to be suspended from school than the latter.

Long-term effects

Stanford says using data to map race and poverty could provide the insights needed to help improve educational opportunity for all children.

And this kind of insight is needed now more than ever. The school shutdowns forced by COVID-19 could have exacerbated existing achievement gaps , according to research from McKinsey. The consultancy says the resulting learning losses – predicted to be greater for low-income Black and Hispanic students – could have long-term effects on the economic well-being of the affected children.

Black and Hispanic families are less likely to have high-speed internet at home, making distance learning difficult. And students living in low-income neighbourhoods are less likely to have had decent home schooling, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Earlier in the pandemic, it said coronavirus would "explode" achievement gaps , suggesting it could expand them by the equivalent of another half a year of schooling.

The World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit brings together leaders from business, government, civil society, media and the broader public to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.

The two-day virtual event, being held on 1-2 June 2021, will address the most critical areas of debate, articulate pathways for action, and mobilize the most influential leaders and organizations to work together to accelerate progress.

The Summit will develop new frameworks, shape innovative solutions and accelerate action on four thematic pillars: Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation; Work, Wages and Job Creation; Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning; and Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.

The World Economic Forum will be exploring the issues around growing income inequality, and what to do about it, as part of The Jobs Reset Summit .

The summit will look at ways to shape more inclusive, fair and sustainable organizations, economies and societies as we emerge from the current crisis.

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License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Exploring Equity: Race and Ethnicity

  • Posted February 18, 2021
  • By Gianna Cacciatore
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Inequality and Education Gaps
  • Moral, Civic, and Ethical Education
  • Teachers and Teaching

Colorful profiles of students raising hands in class

The history of education in the United States is rife with instances of violence and oppression along lines of race and ethnicity. For educators, leading conversations about race and racism is a challenging, but necessary, part of their work.

“Schools operate within larger contexts: systems of race, racism, and white supremacy; systems of migration and ethnic identity formation; patterns of socialization; the changing realities of capitalism and politics,” explains historian and Harvard lecturer Timothy Patrick McCarthy , co-faculty lead of Race and Ethnicity in Context, a new module offered at the Harvard Graduate School of Education this January as part of a pilot of HGSE’s Equity and Opportunity Foundations course. “How do we understand the role that racial and ethnic identity play with respect to equity and opportunity within an educational context?”

>> Learn more about Equity and Opportunity and HGSE’s other foundational learning experiences.

For educators exploring question in their own homes, schools, and communities, McCarthy and co-faculty lead Ashley Ison, an HGSE doctoral student, offer five ways to get started.

1.    Begin with the self.

Practitioners enter conversations about race and racism from different backgrounds, with different lived experiences, personal and professional perspectives, and funds of knowledge in their grasps. Given diverse contexts and realities, it is important that leaders encourage personal transformation and growth. Educators should consider how race and racism, as well as racial and ethnic identity formation, impact their lives as educational professionals, as parents, and as policymakers – whatever roles they hold in society. “This is personal work, but that personal work is also political work,” says Ison.

2.    Model vulnerability.

Entering into discussions of race and racism can be challenging, even for those with experience in this work. A key part of enabling participants to lean into the challenge is being vulnerable. “You have trust your students,” explains McCarthy. “Part of that is modeling authentic vulnerability and proximity to the work.” This can be done by modeling discussion skills, like sharing the space and engaging directly with the comments of other participants, as well as by opening up personally to participants.  

“Fear can impact how people feel talking about race and ethnicity in an inter-group space,” says Ison. Courage, openness, and trust are key to overcoming that fear and enabling listening, which ultimately allows for critical thinking and change.

3.    Be transparent.

Part of being vulnerable is being fully transparent with your students from day one. “Intentions are important,” explains McCarthy. “The gap between intention and impact is often rooted in a lack of transparency about where you’re coming from or where you are hoping to go.”

4.    Center voices of color.

Voice and story are powerful tools in this work. Leaders must consider whose voices and stories take precedence on the syllabus. “Consider highlighting authors of color, in particular, who are thinking and writing about these issues,” says Ison. Becoming familiar with a variety of perspectives can help practitioners understand the voices and ideas that exist, she explains.

“Voice and storytelling can bear witness to the various kinds of systematic injustices and inequities we are looking at, but they also function as sources of power for imagining and reimagining the world we are trying to build, all while providing a deeper knowledge of the world as it has existed historically,” adds McCarthy.

5.    Prioritize discussion and reflection.

Since this work is as much about critical thinking as it is about content, it is important for educators to make space for discussion and reflection, at the whole-class, small-group, and individual levels. Ison and McCarthy encourage educators to allow students to generate and guide the discussion of predetermined course materials. They also recommend facilitating small group reflections that may spark conversation that can extend into other spaces outside of the classroom.

Selected Resources:

  • Poor, but Privileged
  • NPR: "The Importance of Diversity in Teaching Staff”
  • TED Talk with Clint Smith: "The Danger of Silence"

More Stories from the Series:

  • Exploring Equity: Citizenship and Nationality
  • Exploring Equity: Gender and Sexuality
  • Exploring Equity: Dis/ability
  • Exploring Equity: Class

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The Right Has an Opportunity to Rethink Education in America

Cecily Myart-Cruz and UTLA protest against LAUSD

T he casual observer can be forgiven if it looks like both the left and the right are doing their best to lose the debate over the future of American education.

On the left, public officials and self-righteous advocates practically fall over themselves working to subsidize and supersize bloated bureaucracies, hollowed-out urban school systems, and campus craziness. They’ve mutely watched teacher strikes shutter schools and insisted that “true history” requires the U.S. to be depicted as a cesspool of racism and villainy .

Meanwhile, on the right, bleating outrage impresarios have done their best to undercut the easy-to-make case for educational choice by weaving it into angry tirades against well-liked local schools. They’ve taken Taylor Swift, a strait-laced pop star beloved by middle school and high school girls, and imagined her as part of some bizarre Biden Administration PSYOP. Heck, they’ve even decided to try to “ take down ” Martin Luther King, Jr., a Civil Rights icon honored for his legacy of justice, equality, and nonviolence.

What gives?

The left has a problem. Democrats have long benefited from alliances with teacher unions, campus radicals, and the bureaucrats who run the college cartel. This played well with a public that tended to  like  its teachers, schools, and colleges. But  pandemic school closures ,  plunging trust in colleges , and  open antisemitism  have upended the status quo.

This has created an extraordinary opportunity for the right—free of ties with unions, public bureaucracies, and academe—to defend shared values, empower students and families, and rethink outdated arrangements. The right is uniquely positioned to lead on education because it’s not hindered by the left’s entanglements, and is thus much freer to rethink the way that early childhood, K-12, and higher education are organized and delivered.

The right also needs to demonstrate that it cares as much (or more) about the kitchen table issues that affect American families as the culture war issues that animate social media. Affordability, access, rigor, convenience, appropriateness, are the things that parents care about, and the right needs something to offer them.

The question is whether the right will choose to meet the moment at a time when too many public officials seem more interested in social media exposure than solving problems.

We’re optimists. We think the right can rise to the challenge.

It starts with a commitment to principle, shared values, and real world solutions. This is easier than it sounds. After all, the public  sides  with conservatives on hot-button disputes around race, gender, and American history by lopsided margins. Americans broadly  agree  that students should learn both the good and bad about American history,  reject  race-based college admissions,  believe  that student-athletes should play on teams that match their biological sex, and  don’t think  teachers should be discussing gender in K–3 classrooms.

And, while some thoughtful conservatives recoil from accusations of wading into “culture wars,” it’s vital for to talk forthrightly about shared values. Wall Street Journal-NORC  polling , for instance, reports that, when asked to identify values important to them, 94 percent of Americans identified hard work, 90 percent said tolerance for others, 80 percent said community involvement, 73 percent said patriotism, 65 percent said belief in God, and 65 percent said having children. Schools should valorize hard work, teach tolerance, connect students to their community, promote patriotism, and be open minded towards faith and family.

At the same time, of course, educational outcomes matter mightily, for students and the nation . A commitment to rigor, excellence, and merit is a value that conservatives should unabashedly champion. And talk about an easy sell! More than 80 percent of Americans say standardized tests like the SAT should matter for college admissions . Meanwhile, California’s Democratic officials recently approved new math standards that would end advanced math in elementary and middle school and Oregon’s have abolished the requirement that high school graduates be literate and numerate. The right should both point out the absurdity of such policies and carry the banner for high expectations, advanced instruction, gifted programs, and the importance of earned success.

When it comes to kitchen table issues, conservatives can do much more to support parents. That means putting an end to chaotic classrooms. It means using the tax code to provide more financial assistance. It means making it easier and more appealing for employers to offer on-site daycare facilities. It means creating flexible-use spending accounts for both early childhood and K–12 students to support a wide range of educational options. It means pushing colleges to cut bloat and find ways to offer less costly credentials. This means offering meaningful career and technical options so that a college degree feels like a choice rather than a requirement, making it easier for new postsecondary options to emerge, and requiring colleges to have skin in the game when students take out loans (putting the schools on the hook if their students aren’t repaying taxpayers).

Then there’s the need to address the right’s frosty relationship with educators. It’s remarkable, if you think about it, that conservatives—who energetically support cops and have a natural antipathy for bureaucrats and red tape—have so much trouble connecting with teachers. Like police, teachers are  well-liked  local public servants frustrated by bureaucracy and paperwork. It should be easy to embrace discipline policies that keep teachers safe and classrooms manageable, downsize bloated bureaucracy and shift those dollars into classrooms, and tend to parental responsibilities as well as parental rights.  

There’s an enormous opportunity for the right to lead on education today. The question is whether we’re ready to rise to the challenge.

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How our education system undermines gender equity

Subscribe to the brown center on education policy newsletter, and why culture change—not policy—may be the solution, joseph cimpian jc joseph cimpian associate professor of economics and education policy - new york university @joecimpian.

April 23, 2018

There are well-documented achievement and opportunity gaps by income and race/ethnicity. K-12 accountability policies often have a stated goal of reducing or eliminating those gaps, though with questionable effectiveness . Those same accountability policies require reporting academic proficiency by gender, but there are no explicit goals of reducing gender gaps and no “hard accountability” sanctions tied to gender-subgroup performance. We could ask, “Should gender be included more strongly in accountability policies?”

In this post, I’ll explain why I don’t think accountability policy interventions would produce real gender equity in the current system—a system that largely relies on existing state standardized tests of math and English language arts to gauge equity. I’ll argue that although much of the recent research on gender equity from kindergarten through postgraduate education uses math or STEM parity as a measure of equity, the overall picture related to gender equity is of an education system that devalues young women’s contributions and underestimates young women’s intellectual abilities more broadly.

In a sense, math and STEM outcomes simply afford insights into a deeper, more systemic problem. In order to improve access and equity across gender lines from kindergarten through the workforce, we need considerably more social-questioning and self-assessment of biases about women’s abilities.

As soon as girls enter school, they are underestimated

For over a decade now, I have studied gender achievement with my colleague Sarah Lubienski, a professor of math education at Indiana University-Bloomington. In a series of studies using data from both the 1998-99 and 2010-11 kindergarten cohorts of the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we found that no average gender gap in math test scores existed when boys and girls entered kindergarten, but a gap of nearly 0.25 standard deviations developed in favor of the boys by around second or third grade.

For comparison purposes, the growth of the black-white math test score gap was virtually identical to the growth in the gender gap. Unlike levels and growth in race-based gaps, though, which have been largely attributed to a combination of differences in the schools attended by black and white students and to socio-economic differences, boys and girls for the most part attend the same schools and come from families of similar socio-economic status. This suggests that something may be occurring within schools that contributes to an advantage for boys in math.

Exploring deeper, we found that the beliefs that teachers have about student ability might contribute significantly to the gap. When faced with a boy and a girl of the same race and socio-economic status who performed equally well on math tests and whom the teacher rated equally well in behaving and engaging with school, the teacher rated the boy as more mathematically able —an alarming pattern that replicated in a separate data set collected over a decade later .

Another way of thinking of this is that in order for a girl to be rated as mathematically capable as her male classmate, she not only needed to perform as well as him on a psychometrically rigorous external test, but also be seen as working harder than him. Subsequent matching and instrumental variables analyses suggested that teachers’ underrating of girls from kindergarten through third grade accounts for about half of the gender achievement gap growth in math. In other words, if teachers didn’t think their female students were less capable, the gender gap in math might be substantially smaller.

An interaction that Sarah and I had with a teacher drove home the importance and real-world relevance of these results. About five years ago, while Sarah and I were faculty at the University of Illinois, we gathered a small group of elementary teachers together to help us think through these findings and how we could intervene on the notion that girls were innately less capable than boys. One of the teachers pulled a stack of papers out of her tote bag, and spreading them on the conference table, said, “Now, I don’t even understand why you’re looking at girls’ math achievement. These are my students’ standardized test scores, and there are absolutely no gender differences. See, the girls can do just as well as the boys if they work hard enough.” Then, without anyone reacting, it was as if a light bulb went on. She gasped and continued, “Oh my gosh, I just did exactly what you said teachers are doing,” which is attributing girls’ success in math to hard work while attributing boys’ success to innate ability. She concluded, “I see now why you’re studying this.”

Although this teacher did ultimately recognize her gender-based attribution, there are (at least) three important points worth noting. First, her default assumption was that girls needed to work harder in order to achieve comparably to boys in math, and this reflects an all-too-common pattern among elementary school teachers, across at least the past couple decades and in other cultural contexts . Second, it is not obvious how to get teachers to change that default assumption. Third, the evidence that she brought to the table was state standardized test scores, and these types of tests can reveal different (often null or smaller) gender achievement gaps than other measures.

On this last point, state standardized tests consistently show small or no differences between boys and girls in math achievement, which contrasts with somewhat larger gaps on NAEP and PISA , as well as with gaps at the top of the distribution on the ECLS , SAT Mathematics assessment, and the American Mathematics Competition . The reasons for these discrepancies are not entirely clear, but what is clear is that there is no reason to expect that “hardening” the role of gender in accountability policies that use existing state tests and current benchmarks will change the current state of gender gaps. Policymakers might consider implementing test measures similar to those where gaps have been noted and placing more emphasis on gains throughout the achievement distribution. However, I doubt that a more nuanced policy for assessing math gains would address the underlying problem of the year-after-year underestimation of girls’ abilities and various signals and beliefs that buttress boys’ confidence and devalue girls, all of which cumulatively contributes to any measured gaps.

More obstacles await women in higher education and beyond

Looking beyond K-12 education, there is mounting evidence at the college and postgraduate levels that cultural differences between academic disciplines may be driving women away from STEM fields, as well as away from some non-STEM fields (e.g., criminal justice, philosophy, and economics). In fact, although research and policy discussions often dichotomize academic fields and occupations as “STEM” and “non-STEM,” the emerging research on gender discrimination in higher education finds that the factors that drive women away from some fields cut across the STEM/non-STEM divide. Thus, while gender representation disparities between STEM and non-STEM fields may help draw attention to gender representation more broadly, reifying the STEM/non-STEM distinction and focusing on math may be counterproductive to understanding the underlying reasons for gender representation gaps across academic disciplines.

In a recent study , my colleagues and I examined how perceptions on college majors relate to who is entering those majors. We found that the dominant factor predicting the gender of college-major entrants is the degree of perceived discrimination against women. To reach this conclusion, we used two sources of data. First, we created and administered surveys to gather perceptions on how much math is required for a major, how much science is required, how creative a field is, how lucrative careers are in a field, how helpful the field is to society, and how difficult it is for a woman to succeed in the field. After creating factor scales on each of the six dimensions for each major, we mapped those ratings onto the second data source, the Education Longitudinal Study, which contains several prior achievement, demographic, and attitudinal measures on which we matched young men and women attending four-year colleges.

Among this nationally representative sample, we found that the degree to which a field was perceived to be math- or science-intensive had very little relation to student gender. However, fields that were perceived to discriminate against women were strongly predictive of the gender of the students in the field, whether or not we accounted for the other five traits of the college majors. In short, women are less likely to enter fields where they expect to encounter discrimination.

And what happens if a woman perseveres in obtaining a college degree in a field where she encounters discrimination and underestimation and wants to pursue a postgraduate degree in that field, and maybe eventually work in academia? The literature suggests additional obstacles await her. These obstacles may take the form of those in the field thinking she’s not brilliant like her male peers in graduate school, having her looks discussed on online job boards when she’s job-hunting, performing more service work if she becomes university faculty, and getting less credit for co-authored publications in some disciplines when she goes up for tenure.

Each of the examples here and throughout this post reflects a similar problem—education systems (and society) unjustifiably and systematically view women as less intellectually capable.

Societal changes are necessary

My argument that policy probably isn’t the solution is not intended to undercut the importance of affirmative action and grievance policies that have helped many individuals take appropriate legal recourse. Rather, I am arguing that those policies are certainly not enough, and that the typical K-12 policy mechanisms will likely have no real effect in improving equity for girls.

The obstacles that women face are largely societal and cultural. They act against women from the time they enter kindergarten—instilling in very young girls a belief they are less innately talented than their male peers—and persist into their work lives. Educational institutions—with undoubtedly many well-intentioned educators—are themselves complicit in reinforcing the hurdles. In order to dismantle these barriers, we likely need educators at all levels of education to examine their own biases and stereotypes.

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When there’s inequity in learning, it’s usually baked into life, Harvard analysts say

Corydon Ireland

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Third in a series on what Harvard scholars are doing to identify and understand inequality, in seeking solutions to one of America’s most vexing problems.

Before Deval Patrick ’78, J.D. ’82, was the popular and successful two-term governor of Massachusetts, before he was managing director of high-flying Bain Capital, and long before he was Harvard’s most recent Commencement speaker , he was a poor black schoolchild in the battered housing projects of Chicago’s South Side.

The odds of his escaping a poverty-ridden lifestyle, despite innate intelligence and drive, were long. So how did he help mold his own narrative and triumph over baked-in societal inequality ? Through education.

“Education has been the path to better opportunity for generations of American strivers, no less for me,” Patrick said in an email when asked how getting a solid education, in his case at Milton Academy and at Harvard, changed his life.

“What great teachers gave me was not just the skills to take advantage of new opportunities, but the ability to imagine what those opportunities could be. For a kid from the South Side of Chicago, that’s huge.”

If inequality starts anywhere, many scholars agree, it’s with faulty education. Conversely, a strong education can act as the bejeweled key that opens gates through every other aspect of inequality , whether political, economic , racial, judicial, gender- or health-based.

Simply put, a top-flight education usually changes lives for the better. And yet, in the world’s most prosperous major nation, it remains an elusive goal for millions of children and teenagers.

Plateau on educational gains

The revolutionary concept of free, nonsectarian public schools spread across America in the 19th century. By 1970, America had the world’s leading educational system, and until 1990 the gap between minority and white students, while clear, was narrowing.

But educational gains in this country have plateaued since then, and the gap between white and minority students has proven stubbornly difficult to close, says Ronald Ferguson, adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and faculty director of Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative. That gap extends along class lines as well.

“What great teachers gave me was not just the skills to take advantage of new opportunities, but the ability to imagine what those opportunities could be. For a kid from the South Side of Chicago, that’s huge.” — Deval Patrick

In recent years, scholars such as Ferguson, who is an economist, have puzzled over the ongoing achievement gap and what to do about it, even as other nations’ school systems at first matched and then surpassed their U.S. peers. Among the 34 market-based, democracy-leaning countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks around 20th annually, earning average or below-average grades in reading, science, and mathematics.

By eighth grade, Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer Jr. noted last year, only 44 percent of American students are proficient in reading and math. The proficiency of African-American students, many of them in underperforming schools, is even lower.

“The position of U.S. black students is truly alarming,” wrote Fryer, the Henry Lee Professor of Economics, who used the OECD rankings as a metaphor for minority standing educationally. “If they were to be considered a country, they would rank just below Mexico in last place.”

Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Dean James E. Ryan, a former public interest lawyer, says geography has immense power in determining educational opportunity in America. As a scholar, he has studied how policies and the law affect learning, and how conditions are often vastly unequal.

His book “Five Miles Away, A World Apart” (2010) is a case study of the disparity of opportunity in two Richmond, Va., schools, one grimly urban and the other richly suburban. Geography, he says, mirrors achievement levels.

A ZIP code as predictor of success

“Right now, there exists an almost ironclad link between a child’s ZIP code and her chances of success,” said Ryan. “Our education system, traditionally thought of as the chief mechanism to address the opportunity gap, instead too often reflects and entrenches existing societal inequities.”

Urban schools demonstrate the problem. In New York City, for example, only 8 percent of black males graduating from high school in 2014 were prepared for college-level work, according to the CUNY Institute for Education Policy, with Latinos close behind at 11 percent. The preparedness rates for Asians and whites — 48 and 40 percent, respectively — were unimpressive too, but nonetheless were firmly on the other side of the achievement gap.

In some impoverished urban pockets, the racial gap is even larger. In Washington, D.C., 8 percent of black eighth-graders are proficient in math, while 80 percent of their white counterparts are.

Fryer said that in kindergarten black children are already 8 months behind their white peers in learning. By third grade, the gap is bigger, and by eighth grade is larger still.

According to a recent report by the Education Commission of the States, black and Hispanic students in kindergarten through 12th grade perform on a par with the white students who languish in the lowest quartile of achievement.

There was once great faith and hope in America’s school systems. The rise of quality public education a century ago “was probably the best public policy decision Americans have ever made because it simultaneously raised the whole growth rate of the country for most of the 20th century, and it leveled the playing field,” said Robert Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at HKS, who has written several best-selling books touching on inequality, including “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community” and “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.”

Historically, upward mobility in America was characterized by each generation becoming better educated than the previous one, said Harvard economist Lawrence Katz. But that trend, a central tenet of the nation’s success mythology, has slackened, particularly for minorities.

“Thirty years ago, the typical American had two more years of schooling than their parents. Today, we have the most educated group of Americans, but they only have about .4 more years of schooling, so that’s one part of mobility not keeping up in the way we’ve invested in education in the past,” Katz said.

As globalization has transformed and sometimes undercut the American economy, “education is not keeping up,” he said. “There’s continuing growth of demand for more abstract, higher-end skills” that schools aren’t delivering, “and then that feeds into a weakening of institutions like unions and minimum-wage protections.”

“The position of U.S. black students is truly alarming.” — Roland G. Fryer Jr.

Fryer is among a diffuse cohort of Harvard faculty and researchers using academic tools to understand the achievement gap and the many reasons behind problematic schools. His venue is the Education Innovation Laboratory , where he is faculty director.

“We use big data and causal methods,” he said of his approach to the issue.

Fryer, who is African-American, grew up poor in a segregated Florida neighborhood. He argues that outright discrimination has lost its power as a primary driver behind inequality, and uses economics as “a rational forum” for discussing social issues.

Better schools to close the gap

Fryer set out in 2004 to use an economist’s data and statistical tools to answer why black students often do poorly in school compared with whites. His years of research have convinced him that good schools would close the education gap faster and better than addressing any other social factor, including curtailing poverty and violence, and he believes that the quality of kindergarten through grade 12 matters above all.

Supporting his belief is research that says the number of schools achieving excellent student outcomes is a large enough sample to prove that much better performance is possible. Despite the poor performance by many U.S. states, some have shown that strong results are possible on a broad scale. For instance, if Massachusetts were a nation, it would rate among the best-performing countries.

At HGSE, where Ferguson is faculty co-chair as well as director of the Achievement Gap Initiative, many factors are probed. In the past 10 years, Ferguson, who is African-American, has studied every identifiable element contributing to unequal educational outcomes. But lately he is looking hardest at improving children’s earliest years, from infancy to age 3.

In addition to an organization he founded called the Tripod Project , which measures student feedback on learning, he launched the Boston Basics project in August, with support from the Black Philanthropy Fund, Boston’s mayor, and others. The first phase of the outreach campaign, a booklet, videos, and spot ads, starts with advice to parents of children age 3 or younger.

“Maximize love, manage stress” is its mantra and its foundational imperative, followed by concepts such as “talk, sing, and point.” (“Talking,” said Ferguson, “is teaching.”) In early childhood, “The difference in life experiences begins at home.”

At age 1, children score similarly

Fryer and Ferguson agree that the achievement gap starts early. At age 1, white, Asian, black, and Hispanic children score virtually the same in what Ferguson called “skill patterns” that measure cognitive ability among toddlers, including examining objects, exploring purposefully, and “expressive jabbering.” But by age 2, gaps are apparent, with black and Hispanic children scoring lower in expressive vocabulary, listening comprehension, and other indicators of acuity. That suggests educational achievement involves more than just schooling, which typically starts at age 5.

Key factors in the gap, researchers say, include poverty rates (which are three times higher for blacks than for whites), diminished teacher and school quality, unsettled neighborhoods, ineffective parenting, personal trauma, and peer group influence, which only strengthens as children grow older.

“Peer beliefs and values,” said Ferguson, get “trapped in culture” and are compounded by the outsized influence of peers and the “pluralistic ignorance” they spawn. Fryer’s research, for instance, says that the reported stigma of “acting white” among many black students is true. The better they do in school, the fewer friends they have — while for whites who are perceived as smarter, there’s an opposite social effect.

The researchers say that family upbringing matters, in all its crisscrossing influences and complexities, and that often undercuts minority children, who can come from poor or troubled homes. “Unequal outcomes,” he said, “are from, to a large degree, inequality in life experiences.”

Trauma also subverts achievement, whether through family turbulence, street violence, bullying, sexual abuse, or intermittent homelessness. Such factors can lead to behaviors in school that reflect a pervasive form of childhood post-traumatic stress disorder.

[gz_sidebar align=”left”]

Possible solutions to educational inequality:

  • Access to early learning
  • Improved K-12 schools
  • More family mealtimes
  • Reinforced learning at home
  • Data-driven instruction
  • Longer school days, years
  • Respect for school rules
  • Small-group tutoring
  • High expectations of students
  • Safer neighborhoods


At Harvard Law School, both the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative and the Education Law Clinic marshal legal aid resources for parents and children struggling with trauma-induced school expulsions and discipline issues.

At Harvard Business School, Karim R. Lakhani, an associate professor who is a crowdfunding expert and a champion of open-source software, has studied how unequal racial and economic access to technology has worked to widen the achievement gap.

At Harvard’s Project Zero, a nonprofit called the Family Dinner Project is scraping away at the achievement gap from the ground level by pushing for families to gather around the meal table, which traditionally was a lively and comforting artifact of nuclear families, stable wages, close-knit extended families, and culturally shared values.

Lynn Barendsen, the project’s executive director, believes that shared mealtimes improve reading skills, spur better grades and larger vocabularies, and fuel complex conversations. Interactive mealtimes provide a learning experience of their own, she said, along with structure, emotional support, a sense of safety, and family bonding. Even a modest jump in shared mealtimes could boost a child’s academic performance, she said.

“We’re not saying families have to be perfect,” she said, acknowledging dinnertime impediments like full schedules, rudimentary cooking skills, the lure of technology, and the demands of single parenting. “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Whether poring over Fryer’s big data or Barendsen’s family dinner project, there is one commonality for Harvard researchers dealing with inequality in education: the issue’s vast complexity. The achievement gap is a creature of interlocking factors that are hard to unpack constructively.

Going wide, starting early

With help from faculty co-chair and Jesse Climenko Professor of Law Charles J. Ogletree, the Achievement Gap Initiative is analyzing the factors that make educational inequality such a complex puzzle: home and family life, school environments, teacher quality, neighborhood conditions, peer interaction, and the fate of “all those wholesome things,” said Ferguson. The latter include working hard in school, showing respect, having nice friends, and following the rules, traits that can be “elements of a 21st-century movement for equality.”

In the end, best practices to create strong schools will matter most, said Fryer.

He called high-quality education “the new civil rights battleground” in a landmark 2010 working paper for the Handbook of Labor Economics called “Racial Inequality in the 21st Century: The Declining Significance of Discrimination.”

Fryer tapped 10 large data sets on children 8 months to 17 years old. He studied charter schools, scouring for standards that worked. He champions longer school days and school years, data-driven instruction, small-group tutoring, high expectations, and a school culture that prizes human capital — all just “a few simple investments,” he wrote in the working paper. “The challenge for the future is to take these examples to scale” across the country.

How long would closing the gap take with a national commitment to do so? A best-practices experiment that Fryer conducted at low-achieving high schools in Houston closed the gap in math skills within three years, and narrowed the reading achievement gap by a third.

“You don’t need Superman for this,” he said, referring to a film about Geoffrey Canada and his Harlem Children’s Zone, just high-quality schools for everyone, to restore 19th-century educator Horace Mann’s vision of public education as society’s “balance-wheel.”

Last spring, Fryer, still only 38, won the John Bates Clark medal, the most prestigious award in economics after the Nobel Prize. He was a MacArthur Fellow in 2011, became a tenured Harvard professor in 2007, was named to the prestigious Society of Fellows at age 25. He had a classically haphazard childhood, but used school to learn, grow, and prosper. Gradually, he developed a passion for social science that could help him answer what was going wrong in black lives because of educational inequality.

With his background and talent, Fryer has a dramatically unique perspective on inequality and achievement, and he has something else: a seemingly counterintuitive sense that these conditions will improve, once bad schools learn to get better. Discussing the likelihood of closing the achievement gap if Americans have the political and organizational will to do so, Fryer said, “I see nothing but optimism.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately portrayed details of Dr. Fryer’s background.

Illustration by Kathleen M.G. Howlett. Harvard staff writer Christina Pazzanese contributed to this report.

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Experts discussed issues of gender equality in education in Kazakhstan

unesco t

Astana, April 12, 2024 – Representatives of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture and Information, the National Commission on Women and Family Demography under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as other state, international and non-governmental organizations took part in the validation meeting within the framework of the project “Promoting the achievement of gender equality and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Sustainable Development Goals) in Kazakhstan through an integrated approach in the effective implementation of gender and family policies”, funded by the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The meeting participants discussed the results of a gender analysis of national policies and programs in the field of education, as well as anti-discrimination and gender examination of educational programs and teaching materials at the secondary education level.

Gender equality is a fundamental human right and an essential foundation for a sustainable and prosperous world. In this regard, along with ensuring quality education, gender equality is one of two global priorities for UNESCO. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlights gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a separate Sustainable Development Goal 5. This goal is closely intertwined with SDG 4, which emphasizes the right to inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning, and SDG target 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to sustainable development, including through education on sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality , promoting a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and awareness of the value of cultural diversity and the contribution of culture to sustainable development.

Gender equality in education implies not only equal conditions of access to educational resources for women and men, but also the creation of an environment where every person can develop their abilities and talents, regardless of gender. This includes eliminating stereotypes and bias in the educational environment, and promoting the participation of men and women in all areas of education, including science, technology, humanities and arts.

“UNESCO's core principle in promoting gender equality in and through education is to promote gender equality issues in every subject of the curriculum and at every level of education. This is the most effective method. At the same time, it is important to understand that certain subjects may represent great opportunities for this,” emphasized Meirgul Alpysbaeva, National Education Program Specialist at the UNESCO Regional Office in Almaty.

During the validation meeting, the event participants got acquainted with the research conducted by Kazakh and foreign specialists. They addressed questions about what goals for promoting gender equality are established in the educational policies and curricula of Kazakhstan, what thematic content on gender norms, values and behavior is included in curricula and textbooks, what competencies related to achieving gender equality are sought to be developed education system, whether the gender content of the curriculum, reflected in the analyzed teaching materials, is applicable and can be effective in promoting gender equality in teaching and learning.

The meeting participants noted the relevance of the work done and agreed with the recommendations presented in the reports. Reports on the results of gender analysis of national policies and programs in the field of education, as well as anti-discrimination and gender examination of educational programs and teaching materials will be submitted to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

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Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  This goal supports the reduction of disparities and inequities in education, both in terms of access and quality. It recognizes the need to provide quality education for all, and most especially vulnerable populations, including poor children, children living in rural areas, persons with disabilities, indigenous people and refugee children.

This goal is of critical importance because of its transformative effects on the other SDGs. Sustainable development hinges on every child receiving a quality education. When children are offered the tools to develop to their full potential, they become productive adults ready to give back to their communities and break the cycle of poverty. Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility.

Significant progress was achieved during the last decade in increasing access to education and school enrolment rates at all levels, particularly for girls. Despite these gains, about 260 million children were out of school in 2018, nearly one fifth of the global population in that age group. Furthermore, more than half of all children and adolescents worldwide are failing to meet minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.

UNICEF’s contribution towards reaching this goal centres on equity and inclusion to provide all children with quality learning opportunities and skills development programmes, from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF works with governments worldwide to raise the quality and inclusiveness of schools.  

UNICEF is custodian for global monitoring of Indicator 4.2.1 Percentage of children (aged 24–59 months) developmentally on track in at least 3 of the 4 following domains: literacy-numeracy, physical, socio-emotional and learning.

Child-related SDG indicators

Target 4.1 by 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

Proportion of children and young people: (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex

  • Indicator definition
  • Computation method
  • Comments & limitations

Explore the data

The indicator aims to measure the percentage of children and young people who have achieved the minimum learning outcomes in reading and mathematics during or at the end of the relevant stages of education.

The higher the figure, the higher the proportion of children and/or young people reaching at least minimum proficiency in the respective domain (reading or mathematic) with the limitations indicated under the “Comments and limitations” section.

The indicator is also a direct measure of the learning outcomes achieved in the two subject areas at the end of the relevant stages of education. The three measurement points will have their own established minimum standard. There is only one threshold that divides students into above and below minimum:

Below minimum refers to the proportion or percentage of students who do not achieve a minimum standard as set up by countries according to the globally-defined minimum competencies.

Above minimum refers to the proportion or percentage of students who have achieved the minimum standards. Due to heterogeneity of performance levels set by national and cross-national assessments, these performance levels will have to be mapped to the globally-defined minimum performance levels. Once the performance levels are mapped, the global education community will be able to identify for each country the proportion or percentage of children who achieved minimum standards.

(a) Minimum proficiency level (MPL) is the benchmark of basic knowledge in a domain (mathematics, reading, etc.) measured through learning assessments. In September 2018, an agreement was reached on a verbal definition of the global minimum proficiency level of reference for each of the areas and domains of Indicator 4.1.1 as described in the document entitled: Minimum Proficiency Levels (MPLs): Outcomes of the consensus building meeting ( http://gaml.uis.unesco.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/02/MPLs_revised_doc_20190204.docx ).

Minimum proficiency levels (MPLs) defined by each learning assessment to ensure comparability across learning assessments; a verbal definition of MPL for each domain and levels between cross-national assessments (CNAs) were established by conducting an analysis of the performance level descriptors, the descriptions of the performance levels to express the knowledge and skills required to achieve each performance level by domain, of cross-national, regional and community-led tests in reading and mathematics. The analysis was led and completed by the UIS and a consensus among experts on the proposed methodology was deemed adequate and pragmatic.

The global MPL definitions for the domains of reading and mathematics are presented here (insert link)

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reading test has six proficiency levels, of which Level 2 is described as the minimum proficiency level. In Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), there are four proficiency levels: Low, Intermediate, High and Advanced. Students reaching the Intermediate benchmark are able to apply basic knowledge in a variety of situations, similar to the idea of minimum proficiency. Currently, there are no common standards validated by the international community or countries. The indicator shows data published by each of the agencies and organizations specialised in cross-national learning assessments.

Minimum proficiency levels defined by each learning assessment

(a) The number of children and/or young people at the relevant stage of education n in year t achieving at least the pre-defined proficiency level in subject s expressed as a percentage of the number of children and/or young people at stage of education n, in year t, in any proficiency level in subjects.

Harmonize various data sources To address the challenges posed by the limited capacity of some countries to implement cross- national, regional and national assessments, actions have been taken by the UIS and its partners. The strategies are used according to its level of precision and following a reporting protocol ( http://gaml.uis.unesco.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/05/GAML6-WD-2-Protocol-for-reporting-4.1.1_v1.pdf ) that includes the national assessments under specific circumstances.

Out-of-school children In 2016, 263 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school, representing nearly one-fifth of the global population of this age group. 63 million, or 24% of the total, are children of primary school age (typically 6 to 11 years old); 61 million, or 23% of the total, are adolescents of lower secondary school age (typically 12 to 14 years old); and 139 million, or 53% of the total, are youth of upper secondary school age (about 15 to 17 years old). Not all these kids will be permanently outside school, some will re-join the educational system and, eventually, complete late, while some of them will enter late. The quantity varies per country and region and demands some adjustment in the estimate of Indicator 4.1.1. There is currently a discussion on how to implement these adjustments to reflect all the population. In 2017, the UIS proposed to make adjustments using the out-of-school children and the completion rates.( http://uis.unesco.org/en/blog/helping-countries-improve-their-data-out-school-children ) and the completion rates.

Minimum proficiency formula

Learning outcomes from cross-national learning assessment are directly comparable for all countries which participated in the same cross-national learning assessments. However, these outcomes are not comparable across different cross-national learning assessments or with national learning assessments. A level of comparability of learning outcomes across assessments could be achieved by using different methodologies, each with varying standard errors. The period of 2020-2021 will shed light on the standard errors’ size for these methodologies.

The comparability of learning outcomes over time has additional complications, which require, ideally, to design and implement a set of comparable items as anchors in advance. Methodological developments are underway to address comparability of assessments outcomes over time.

While data from many national assessments are available now, every country sets its own standards so the performance levels might not be comparable. One option is to link existing regional assessments based on a common framework. Furthermore, assessments are typically administered within school systems, the current indicators cover only those in school and the proportion of in-school target populations might vary from country to country due to varied out-of-school children populations. Assessing competencies of children and young people who are out of school would require household-based surveys. Assessing children in households is under consideration but may be very costly and difficult to administer and unlikely to be available on the scale needed within the next 3-5 years. Finally, the calculation of this indicator requires specific information on the ages of children participating in assessments to create globally-comparable data. The ages of children reported by the head of the household might not be consistent and reliable so the calculation of the indicator may be even more challenging. Due to the complication in assessing out-of-school children and the main focus on improving education system, the UIS is taking a stepping stone approach. It will concentrate on assessing children in school in the medium term, where much data are available, then develop more coherent implementation plan to assess out-of-school children in the longer term.

Click on the button below to explore the data behind this indicator.

Completion rate (primary education, lower secondary education, upper secondary education)

A completion rate of 100% indicates that all children and adolescents have completed a level of education by the time they are 3 to 5 years older than the official age of entry into the last grade of that level of education. A low completion rate indicates low or delayed entry into a given level of education, high drop-out, high repetition, late completion, or a combination of these factors.

Percentage of a cohort of children or young people aged 3-5 years above the intended age for the last grade of each level of education who have completed that grade.

The intended age for the last grade of each level of education is the age at which pupils would enter the grade if they had started school at the official primary entrance age, had studied full-time and had progressed without repeating or skipping a grade.

For example, if the official age of entry into primary education is 6 years, and if primary education has 6 grades, the intended age for the last grade of primary education is 11 years. In this case, 14-16 years (11 + 3 = 14 and 11 + 5 = 16) would be the reference age group for calculation of the primary completion rate.

The number of persons in the relevant age group who have completed the last grade of a given level of education is divided by the total population (in the survey sample) of the same age group.

Completion rate computation method

The age group 3-5 years above the official age of entry into the last grade for a given level of education was selected for the calculation of the completion rate to allow for some delayed entry or repetition. In countries where entry can occur very late or where repetition is common, some children or adolescents in the age group examined may still attend school and the eventual rate of completion may therefore be underestimated.

The indicator is calculated from household survey data and is subject to time lag in the availability of data. When multiple surveys are available, they may provide conflicting information due to the possible presence of sampling and non-sampling errors in survey data. The Technical Cooperation Group on the Indicators for SDG 4 – Education 2030 (TCG) has requested a refinement of the methodology to model completion rate estimates, following an approach similar to that used for the estimation of child mortality rates. The model would ensure that common challenges with household survey data, such as timeliness and sampling or non-sampling errors are addressed to provide up-to-date and more robust data.

TARGET 4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education

Proportion of children aged 24-59 months of age who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being, by sex.

Early childhood development (ECD) sets the stage for life-long thriving. Investing in ECD is one of the most critical and cost-effective investments a country can make to improve adult health, education and productivity in order to build human capital and promote sustainable development. ECD is equity from the start and provides a good indication of national development. Efforts to improve ECD can bring about human, social and economic improvements for both individuals and societies.

The recommended measure for SDG 4.2.1 is the Early Childhood Development Index 2030 (ECDI2030) which is a 20-item instrument to measure developmental outcomes among children aged 24 to 59 months in population-based surveys. The indicator derived from the ECDI2030 is the proportion of children aged 24 to 59 months who have achieved the minimum number of milestones expected for their age group, defined as follows:

– Children age 24 to 29 months are classified as developmentally on-track if they have achieved at least 7 milestones – Children age 30 to 35 months are classified as developmentally on-track if they have achieved at least 9 milestones – Children age 36 to 41 months are classified as developmentally on-track if they have achieved at least 11 milestones – Children age 42 to 47 months are classified as developmentally on-track if they have achieved at least 13 milestones – Children age 48 to 59 months are classified as developmentally on-track if they have achieved at least 15 milestones

SDG indicator 4.2.1 is intended to capture the multidimensional and holistic nature of early childhood development. For this reason, the indicator is not intended to be disaggregated by domains since development in all areas (health, learning and psychosocial wellbeing) are interconnected and overlapping, particularly among young children. The indicator is intended to produce a single summary score to indicate the proportion of children considered to be developmentally on track.

The domains included in the indicator for SDG indicator 4.2.1 include the following concepts:

Health: gross motor development, fine motor development and self-care Learning: expressive language, literacy, numeracy, pre-writing, and executive functioning Psychosocial well-being: emotional skills, social skills, internalizing behavior, and externalizing behavior

The number of children aged 24 to 59 months who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being divided by the total number of children aged 24 to 59 months in the population multiplied by 100.

SDG 4.2.1 was initially classified as Tier 3 and was upgraded to Tier 2 in 2019; additionally, changes to the indicator were made during the 2020 comprehensive review. In light of this and given that the ECDI2030 was officially released in March 2020, it will take some time for country uptake and implementation of the new measure and for data to become available from a sufficiently large enough number of countries. Therefore, in the meantime, a proxy indicator (children aged 36-59 months who are developmentally ontrack in at least three of the following four domains: literacy-numeracy, physical, social-emotional and learning) will be used to report on 4.2.1, when relevant. This proxy indicator has been used for global SDG reporting since 2015 but is not fully aligned with the definition and age group covered by the SDG indicator formulation. When the proxy indicator is used for SDG reporting on 4.2.1 for a country, it will be footnoted as such in the global SDG database.

Click on the button below to explore the data behind this indicator’s proxy; Children aged 36-59 months who are developmentally ontrack in at least three of the following four domains: literacy-numeracy, physical, social-emotional and learning . For more information about this proxy indicator, please see “Comments and Limitations”

Adjusted net attendance rate, one year before the official primary entry age

The indicator measures children’s exposure to organized learning activities in the year prior to the official age to start of primary school as a representation of access to quality early childhood care and pre-primary education. One year prior to the start of primary school is selected for international comparison. A high value of the indicator shows a high degree of participation in organized learning immediately before the official entrance age to primary education.

The participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age), by sex as defined as the percentage of children in the given age range who participate in one or more organized learning programme, including programmes which offer a combination of education and care. Participation in early childhood and in primary education are both included. The age range will vary by country depending on the official age for entry to primary education.

An organized learning programme is one which consists of a coherent set or sequence of educational activities designed with the intention of achieving pre-determined learning outcomes or the accomplishment of a specific set of educational tasks. Early childhood and primary education programmes are examples of organized learning programmes.

Early childhood and primary education are defined in the 2011 revision of the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED 2011). Early childhood education is typically designed with a holistic approach to support children’s early cognitive, physical, social and emotional development and to introduce young children to organized instruction outside the family context. Primary education offers learning and educational activities designed to provide students with fundamental skills in reading, writing and mathematics and establish a solid foundation for learning and understanding core areas of knowledge and personal development. It focuses on learning at a basic level of complexity with little, if any, specialisation.

The official primary entry age is the age at which children are obliged to start primary education according to national legislation or policies. Where more than one age is specified, for example, in different parts of a country, the most common official entry age (i.e. the age at which most children in the country are expected to start primary) is used for the calculation of this indicator at the global level.

The number of children in the relevant age group who participate in an organized learning programme is expressed as a percentage of the total population in the same age range. From household surveys, both enrolments and population are collected at the same time.

4.2.2 computation method formula

Participation in learning programmes in the early years is not full time for many children, meaning that exposure to learning environments outside of the home will vary in intensity. The indicator measures the percentage of children who are exposed to organized learning but not the intensity of the programme, which limits the ability to draw conclusions on the extent to which this target is being achieved. More work is needed to ensure that the definition of learning programmes is consistent across various surveys and defined in a manner that is easily understood by survey respondents, ideally with complementary information collected on the amount of time children spend in learning programmes.

TARGET 4.a Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all

Proportion of schools offering basic services, by type of service.

This indicator measures the presence of basic services and facilities in school that are necessary to ensure a safe and effective learning environment for all students. A high value indicates that schools have good access to the relevant services and facilities. Ideally each school should have access to all these services and facilities.

The percentage of schools by level of education (primary education) with access to the given facility or service

Electricity: Regularly and readily available sources of power (e.g. grid/mains connection, wind, water, solar and fuel-powered generator, etc.) that enable the adequate and sustainable use of ICT infrastructure for educational purposes.

Internet for pedagogical purposes: Internet that is available for enhancing teaching and learning and is accessible by pupils. Internet is defined as a worldwide interconnected computer network, which provides pupils access to a number of communication services including the World Wide Web and carries e-mail, news, entertainment and data files, irrespective of the device used (i.e. not assumed to be only via a computer) and thus can also be accessed by mobile telephone, tablet, PDA, games machine, digital TV etc.). Access can be via a fixed narrowband, fixed broadband, or via mobile network.

Computers for pedagogical use: Use of computers to support course delivery or independent teaching and learning needs. This may include activities using computers or the Internet to meet information needs for research purposes; develop presentations; perform hands-on exercises and experiments; share information; and participate in online discussion forums for educational purposes. A computer is a programmable electronic device that can store, retrieve and process data, as well as share information in a highly-structured manner. It performs high-speed mathematical or logical operations according to a set of instructions or algorithms.

Computers include the following types: -A desktop computer usually remains fixed in one place; normally the user is placed in front of it, behind the keyboard; – A laptop computer is small enough to carry and usually enables the same tasks as a desktop computer; it includes notebooks and netbooks but does not include tablets and similar handheld devices; and – A tablet (or similar handheld computer) is a computer that is integrated into a flat touch screen, operated by touching the screen rather than using a physical keyboard.

Adapted infrastructure is defined as any built environment related to education facilities that are accessible to all users, including those with different types of disability, to be able to gain access to use and exit from them. Accessibility includes ease of independent approach, entry, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities (such as water and sanitation), by all of the building’s potential users with an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those activities.

Adapted materials include learning materials and assistive products that enable students and teachers with disabilities/functioning limitations to access learning and to participate fully in the school environment.

Accessible learning materials include textbooks, instructional materials, assessments and other materials that are available and provided in appropriate formats such as audio, braille, sign language and simplified formats that can be used by students and teachers with disabilities/functioning limitations.

Basic drinking water is defined as a functional drinking water source (MDG ‘improved’ categories) on or near the premises and water points accessible to all users during school hours.

Basic sanitation facilities are defined as functional sanitation facilities (MDG ‘improved’ categories) separated for males and females on or near the premises.

Basic handwashing facilities are defined as functional handwashing facilities, with soap and water available to all girls and boys.

The number of schools in a given level of education with access to the relevant facilities is expressed as a percentage of all schools at that level of education.

4.a.1 indicator formula

The indicator measures the existence in schools of the given service or facility but not its quality or operational state.

For every child to learn, UNICEF has eight key asks of governments:

  • A demonstration of how the SDG 4 global ambitions are being nationalized into plans, policies, budgets, data collection efforts and reports.
  • A renewed commitment to education to recover learning losses and manage impacts of COVID-19.
  • The implementation and scaling of digital learning solutions and innovations to reimagine education.
  • Attention to skills development should be a core component to education.
  • Focus to provide quality education to the most vulnerable – including girls, children affected by conflict and crisis, children with disabilities, refugees and displaced children.
  • A continued commitment to improving access to pre-primary, primary and secondary education for all, including for children from minority groups and those with disabilities.
  • A renewed focus on learning outcomes and their enablers, including learning in safe and adequate environments, support by well-trained teachers and structured content.
  • The implementation of SDG-focused learning throughout schools to raise awareness and inspire positive action.

Learn more about  UNICEF’s key asks for implementing Goal 4

See more Sustainable Development Goals












education equality articles

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How to promote an inclusive environment in your school

BBC Teach > Teacher Support > Articles

We need to ensure that we create an inclusive culture, that allows for all of our children to flourish.

By Aisha Thomas, Diversity and Inclusion education consultant

As an assistant principal, a specialist leader in education for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Community and the current chair of the Race Equality Steering Group for my federation, I understand the importance of ensuring that equality, diversity, and inclusion is at the forefront of our minds and is embedded into the culture of our schools.

Understanding your identity is an important part of a child’s development. It takes place in the early years of their lives and follows them into adulthood. Equality, diversity, and inclusion, SMSC and PSHE have a place in establishing what this will look like.

We have a responsibility as educators to prepare the whole child and ensure that approaches are holistic and not simply academic. Our students are more than an attainment score at the end of KS3, 4 and 5, they are our hope for the future, and identity is a necessary component for our children to thrive and add to the world.

2020 presented us with an unprecedented set of circumstances beyond what would most of us could have imagined. The pandemic ripped through our lives and dramatically changed the landscape of education. It exposed and exacerbated inequalities, racial inequality in particular.

However, tackling racism in education is not a new concept and remains a challenge in schools. The Swann report of 1985 referred to ‘education for all’, yet we still live in a time where inequalities exist.

Black and Asian pupils are still more likely to be excluded, to be stopped by the police, to be subject to discrimination via policies and process. Their histories and cultures may not be taught widely or may feel marginalised due to forming part of initiatives such as Black History Month.

What does that mean for us as educators? How do we make change and create an inclusive culture that allows for all of our children to flourish?

The statutory guidance

The Equality Act 2010 outlines the nine protected characteristics and the public sector duty that schools need to adhere to. It's important to have read all associated guidance, as it explains what is required and should inform and govern the work of the school.

All schools should ensure they have the following:

  • Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) policy, which is available on the school website;
  • Equality statement;
  • Equality Objectives that are reported on annually and updated every three years;
  • Relationships, Sex and Education policy , with specific reference to PSHE delivery and the teaching related to LGBTQ+AI communities; and
  • Completed Equality Impact Assessment on their policies.

The beginning

One of the most common questions I receive is: "Well, how do we do it?"

First, we need to start with ourselves. How often do we take time to consider our core believes and values? Do we consider where information comes from, the knowledge we gain from our parents and carers and the impact that has on us?

All these aspects will influence the way in which we engage with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

We should start by asking ourselves the simple question: What does Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) mean to me?

Grab a piece of paper and map it out. Then write down how you would describe your identity.

The process

When embarking on your EDI journey, set out a very clear process. You must identify your team:

  • Who is the EDI lead?
  • Where are your champions?
  • Who is holding the process to account?
  • Where are you getting support?

When promoting a healthy environment of inclusion, it is important to take stock of where your school is on the journey.

Review and audit all aspects of your school, curriculum, staff, students, environment, information and display boards and website. This process can include data which is qualitative and quantitative.

This information will provide you with a baseline to work from and prepare you for the process that will follow.

Take a deep dive and listen to the voices of your stakeholders. This should include staff, students, governors and the community. All stakeholders must have a sense of connection and belonging.

The work of EDI requires all members of your school to be on board. It cannot be a top-down approach and the responsibility equally should not fall upon the marginalised and only take place at a grassroots level.

Ensure you set out your key priorities. It is important that the priorities are shared throughout your school community - the vision and the ‘why’ should be clear.

Once the priorities are clear, outline the actions you will take. Create an action plan and outline the key priorities for your school. It is important to note that you cannot do everything!

Your action plan should include what steps you will take, your success criteria, milestones, staff responsibilities and resources that will be needed. This provides a clear accountability process.

One of the biggest challenges of this work is that staff feel that they do not have the knowledge to engage with the topic. I like to apply the 20/80 rule (Pareto Principle). The principle states that 80% of our outcomes will come from 20% of the causes. Therefore, in the context of EDI work, 20% will equate to insight and knowledge, but 80% will be subject to practice.

How often are schools applying the principles of learning? Do we see the changes in our curriculum? Do all children feel safe? Are all cases of discrimination reported and responded to?

Review your work. Ensure that is does not became a dusty action plan that is not reviewed and accessed on a regular basis.

Create legacy for your organisation. Ensure that the work is embedded into the fabric of your organisation and that it becomes the golden thread in your school.

What can the work include?

Training and cpd.

Ensure that all staff access to training and CPD. Most staff want to do the right thing. However, they feel ill-equipped and unprepared.

Training and CPD can take many forms such as:

  • External training
  • Hearing ‘lived experiences’ (See BBC Teach's Crossing Divides .)
  • Research pieces
  • Teach meets and
  • Conferences
The work of EDI requires all members of your school to be on board.

Most educators default to history or the humanities department, as these subjects naturally lend themselves to the opportunity to challenges the narratives and perspectives we have been taught.

Here are some examples of how the curriculum can be diversified:

  • Black British Stories
  • Segregation and racism in World War One
  • Why the British West Indies Regiment joined World War One
  • What happened to the British West Indies Regiment after World War One
  • Cargo Classroom

But humanities are not the only subjects that require diversity and representation. For example, PSHE can be seen through a lens of lessons about identity and culture.

Start by reviewing what you teach in your subject area. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What facts are you presenting?
  • What narratives are being taught?
  • What is your perspective and understanding?
  • Which communities are being depicted?
  • Are you only presenting trauma?
  • What is the lens in which the knowledge is being delivered?
  • Who are the protagonists?
  • What imagery and resources are being used?
  • Who are the students that you have in your room? What are their lived experiences?

Start with what you have when beginning the journey.

Where can it happen

EDI teaching and learning can happen in all aspects of school life. For example,

  • Cultural evenings
  • Tutor time discussion
  • Student debates
  • Performances
  • Guest speakers
  • Visual displays
  • Library and other learning spaces
  • Extra-curricular activities

However, the work does not stop there. We must consider all areas of education.

Show allyship and solidarity to your students and colleagues. This can be demonstrated in the work you are doing, the initiatives you support and the way you handle and approach discrimination.

The BBC Teach Allies films explain the importance of active listening and hearing the experiences of those from marginalised groups.

Our students provide a wealth of knowledge and experience; however, we must be willing to listen and put into practice what they are teaching us. We must model the behaviour we expect to see and demonstrate in all aspects of life, that each and every child deserves the opportunity to succeed, irrespective of the identities and intersections that they hold.

I firmly believe that until we live in a society where we are all represented, one of the questions will always be, 'Do I belong?' - something which I spoke about in my 2019 TEDx talk, ‘Why representation really matters’ .

As educators, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to do the most good that we can. For them, for us, and for education.

Teacher Support Articles

Teacher Support Articles

All our articles for teachers in one place, sharing peer-to-peer advice and personal experiences.

Being an ally to your students from black, South Asian and mixed heritage backgrounds

Being an ally to your students from black, South Asian and mixed heritage backgrounds

In these short films students and teachers share their tips for encouraging everyone to be better allies and for working towards a truly inclusive educational experience.

Supporting your students of East and South East Asian heritage

Supporting your students of East and South East Asian heritage

In the wake of Covid-19, East Asian and South East Asian communities have experienced increased racism, even on school grounds. How can teachers help?

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  • Open access
  • Published: 20 April 2024

Effectiveness of carbon dioxide emission target is linked to country ambition and education level

  • Yuheng Zheng 1 ,
  • Rui Shan   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-5240-1100 2 , 3 ,
  • Wangtu (Ato) Xu   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0790-821X 1 &
  • Yueming (Lucy) Qiu   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-9233-4996 4  

Communications Earth & Environment volume  5 , Article number:  209 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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  • Interdisciplinary studies

In response to the Paris Agreement, a growing number of countries, 123 in total, have committed to carbon reduction targets. While existing research has assessed various policies’ effectiveness in achieving these targets, the potential of the act of goal-setting itself as a policy instrument has been underexplored. Here we leveraged a comprehensive panel dataset spanning 163 countries from 2011 to 2022 and employed a rigorous difference-in-difference model. Empirical findings reveal that both proposing carbon reduction targets and setting higher targets effectively reduce emissions intensity. The mechanism driving the impact of carbon reduction targets on CO 2 emissions centers on the level of education, rather than renewable energy capacity, requiring further investigation to the mechanism. Subsequent analysis establishes connections between target levels and renewable energy capacity. Our results advocate for dynamic updates of carbon reduction targets aligned with renewable energy capacity when formulating climate objectives.


Due to rapid industrialization and the escalating demand for energy, the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases has played a pivotal role in driving global shifts in temperature. In more specific terms, the human-induced increase in global surface temperatures has amounted to approximately 1.07 °C between the periods 1850–1900 and 2010–2019 1 . This shifting climate landscape ushers in a higher frequency of extreme weather events 2 , resulting in property damage 3 , 4 diminished agricultural productivity 3 , 5 . Moreover, scientific evidence underscores the detrimental effects of climate change on both physical and mental well-being 6 . To address these challenges, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has established an ambitious target of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels 7 . To achieve this goal, a reduction of approximately 45% in global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions from 2010 levels is imperative by 2030, with the subsequent achievement of net zero emissions in the latter half of the century 8 .

Recognizing the gravity of climate change, national governments worldwide have taken proactive measures. In 2015, 193 parties united in their commitment to combat climate change by signing the Paris Agreement 9 . Signatories to this agreement pledge to submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and strengthen their efforts through ongoing progress assessments. By 2022, 147 countries had submitted their first NDCs, with 123 of these nations establishing individual carbon reduction targets in the NDCs (hereinafter referred to as carbon reduction targets). Unlike technical companies that can provide direct technical solutions, governments rely on a range of management tools to meet their carbon reduction objectives. Existing research has delved into policy instruments such as carbon taxes 10 , 11 , emission trading 10 , 12 , and regulatory frameworks 13 , 14 to effectively attain these goals.

In this context, the concept of goal-setting emerges as a valuable management tool to address greenhouse gas emissions. At the individual level, research has established a strong correlation between self-set goals and personal performance, spanning work-related achievements and academic grades 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 . Such goal-setting impacts also extend to organizational performance enhancement 19 , 20 . While nations can be viewed as aggregations of individuals and entities, limited research has explored the impact of national targets, particularly in the realm of climate governance. Nevertheless, evidence suggests the efficacy of goal-setting in enhancing public administration and policy implementation 21 , 22 , 23 . However, the utilization of goal-setting theory in climate change governance remains underexplored, with recent studies focusing on its application in city-level climate governance 24 . Another study examined the localization of the European Union’s sustainable target and found the EU’s target had a discursive effect on the national and local levels 25 . Lastly, at the international level, goal-setting policy in the form of Sustainable Development Goals has received considerable attention in the area of global governance 26 , although empirical evidence to support their effectiveness remains scarce.

This study aimed to solve the following three questions that previous research has failed to answer. First, could carbon reduction targets be conducive to reducing carbon emissions, and does the difficulty of the target affect the effectiveness? Viewing carbon reduction targets as mitigation policies rather than mere objectives, we analyze their impact on emissions, extending goal-setting theory to the national level. Leveraging a panel dataset encompassing 163 countries spanning 2011 to 2022, we assess the influence of NDCs on elevating, diminishing, or leaving carbon emissions unchanged. Secondly, if carbon reduction targets prove effective as policy tools, what mechanisms underlie their impact on emissions? We primarily investigate whether the development of renewable energy could serve as a critical mediator. As renewable energy development is a central strategy for climate mitigation, its role as a mediator aligns with goal-setting theory 27 , 28 . Lastly, if goal-setting has the potential to enhance emission reduction, how should a country formulate its target? This inquiry examines the key factors shaping existing carbon reduction targets. In doing so, this evaluation offers fresh insights to policymakers on effectively employing carbon reduction targets as policy instruments and explores the viability of goal-setting theory in climate governance.

Results and Discussion

Emission reduction targets effectively reduce carbon emission intensity.

In this study, considering data gaps in some of the variables, 163 countries during 2011-2022 are chosen as the research sample to construct panel data. Among them, 123 countries that had at least proposed one carbon reduction target were selected as the treatment group; meanwhile, 40 countries that did not present carbon reduction targets were designated as the control group, shown in Fig.  1 .

figure 1

a Countries with carbon emission reduction targets over time of control group (green) and treatment group (in red); b Carbon emission intensity over time of control group (green) and treatment group (pre in yellow and post in red). Treated (Pre) indicates when a target has not been proposed and Treated (Post) indicates when the target has been proposed.

Considering the diversity in the timing of carbon reduction target proposals across countries, we adopted a two-way fixed effects (TWFE) difference-in-differences methodology to assess the influence of carbon reduction targets on CO 2 emissions intensity. Previous research has pointed out that considerable disparities in treatment timing and its dynamic effect over time may introduce potential bias into the estimates of TWFE 29 . However, in our case, 75 countries in the treatment group proposed their targets in 2016, while 33 countries proposed in 2017 and 15 in other years. Moreover, there is limited variation in treatments at different timings. Thus, the potential bias caused by any staggered treatment periods and inappropriate comparisons is very limited.

CO 2 emissions intensity ( CI ) is measured by carbon emission per GDP per capita. Besides the binary variable ( D ) indicating the emission target, we also consider another variable capture the difficulty of emission target measured by the average reduced emission intensity ( CRT ). Controlled variables include economic development ( PGDP ), economic structure ( IMP , SER , IND ), education level ( EDU ) and income inequality ( INC ), along with the country-specific constants and year-specific constants. Detailed econometric models and our methodology for constructing our sample can be found in the Methods section.

As shown in Fig.  2 , the estimated coefficients for variables D and CRT exhibited a strong negative significance at the 10% and 1% level. Thus, proposing a carbon reduction target corresponded to an average reduction of 0.0128 kilograms of CO 2 emissions per GDP in the country. Additionally, for the increment of one kilogram in CO 2 emissions per GDP within the annual carbon reduction target, there was a corresponding reduction of 0.230 kilograms in CO 2 emissions per GDP. These findings underscore the substantial efficacy of carbon reduction targets as an impactful policy instrument, transcending symbolic gestures. Notably, higher targets are associated with more profound emission reductions. The GDP per capita and income inequality also had negative and significant coefficients at 5% level.

figure 2

CRT-carbon emission reduction target; PGDP-GDP per capita; IMP-share of import in GDP; SER-share of service sector in GDP; IND-share of industrial sector in GDP; INC-income inequality level; EDU-education level.

To validate the applicability of TWFE estimator, we also tested the alternative models. As shown in Supplementary Table  4 , only those countries with the implement in 2016 being selected as a single treatment period to perform TWFE regression, the estimated coefficients for D and CRT remained negative and statistically significant, consistent with the baseline model. Although sample sizes are smaller for other treatment periods, their estimated coefficients also exhibit negativity.

The foundational principle underpinning the application of the difference-in-differences model hinges on the concept of the parallel trend test. Based on the results of parallel trend test, as depicted in Fig.  3 and Supplementary Table  5 , the estimated coefficients on the dummy variables showed no significant difference from the base year (zero value) before policy implementation, thus supporting the parallel trend hypothesis. This result indicates that the difference-in-differences model was appropriate to evaluate the treatment effect of policies. In the year of policy implementation, a pivotal shift was discerned, as the coefficients exhibited a marked negative influence. Notably, this impact endured beyond the initial policy enactment, implying a sustained trend in the reduction of CO 2 emission intensity.

figure 3

Blue line represents the 95% confidence interval.

The result of placebo test was shown in Fig.  4 . Most of estimation coefficients were distributed around 0, with a p -values greater than 0.1. Therefore, the placebo carbon reduction target has no significant impact among these 1000 samples. The placebo test consequently passed, and the negative impact of carbon reduction targets on carbon emissions is not accidental.

figure 4

Red dashed line corresponds to the P value of 0.1.

The robustness of our model was demonstrated through individual control variable elimination (Fig.  5a, b ), with Education playing a pivotal role. Moreover, modifying the education variable from tertiary enrollment rate to secondary enrollment rate still yielded a significant model outcome (Fig.  5c ), thereby reinforcing our study’s key conclusion. These results were displayed in Supplementary Table  6 . To further test the robustness of the results and eliminate the potential endogeneity of the core independent variable, the result of the lagged test was shown in Supplementary Table  7 . The coefficients for variables D and CRT exhibited a negative significance, basically unchanged compared with the baseline model in Supplementary Table  3 , effectively supporting the negative effect of carbon reduction targets on carbon emissions.

figure 5

a Drop PGDP, IMP and SER respectively; b Drop IND, INC and EDU respectively; c Display the core model with full control variables, and replace tertiary enrollment rate with secondary enrollment rate to represent education level. Light spike line represents the 99% confidence interval. CRT-carbon emission reduction target; PGDP-GDP per capita; IMP-share of import in GDP; SER-share of service sector in GDP; IND-share of industrial sector in GDP; INC-income inequality level; EDU-education level.

The COVID, being a public health crisis, has had a profound impact on the carbon emissions. The results are presented in Supplementary Table  8 to test the potential effects of the COVID. However, it is observed that variables about COVID did not exhibit significant influence. The coefficients of variables D and CRT demonstrate negative significance and remain largely unchanged compared to the baseline model in Supplementary Table  3 , further validating the robustness of the baseline model. The effect of COVID on emission is potentially mediated through economic activities which were already controlled in the model through variable GDP per capita. Furthermore, to gauge the influence of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, we conducted additional tests by excluding the years affected by this significant global event. The regression results presented in Supplementary Table  11 also reinforce the robustness of the baseline model.

The mechanism underlying this phenomenon is likely intricate, but from the robustness test, it appears to be closely linked to education but the causality between education and effectiveness of carbon reduction targets could not be easily concluded based on models available in this study.

We propose potential explanations here. Firstly, a clearly defined carbon reduction target transforms a vague organizational intention into a dedicated consensus, laying the groundwork for systematic and comprehensive action plans. In contrast, without a clear target, carbon reduction’s ambiguous nature might clash with the country’s economic development goals, leading to conflicts and inefficiencies. By factoring in education, consensus-building could occur at different levels, aligning multiple targets, including economic development, and fostering operational efficiency.

A nationally articulated climate change mitigation target not only establishes explicit expectations but also furnishes governments and enterprises with a strategic framework for action. Education plays a pivotal role in interpreting these expectations across varied tiers. As targets gain clarity, the likelihood of their attainment amplifies, spurring proactive formulation of supportive policies and early innovative action by enterprises. Moreover, measurable national objectives prompt local authorities to actively contribute to carbon reduction, as these targets become metrics for gauging performance and prospects for advancement. Propagation of these targets through media channels heightens environmental consciousness, motivating citizens to adopt eco-friendly lifestyles. Ultimately, carbon reduction targets act as affirmative signals, with education potentially influencing their interpretation, galvanizing a diverse spectrum of stakeholders to engage actively in carbon reduction endeavors, culminating in a remarkable curtailment of CO 2 emission intensity.

However, education, depending on the indicator and content, also has other complicated relationships with climate change. For example, previous research shows that education is associated with energy efficiency education in leftist parties and reduces emissions 30 , not through climate targets analyzed in this study. Research also shows that educational attainment is a strong predictor of climate change awareness 31 , which might directly affect the population lifestyle and the emission. Therefore, the relationship among education level, climate target effectiveness and emission may not be a straightforward causality.

Renewable capacity is not a mediator

Drawing inspiration from the tenets of goal-setting theory, it becomes apparent that certain goal mediators—such as choice, effort, ability, persistence, and self-efficacy—play a pivotal role in potentially mediating the impact of goals on performance dynamics 27 . Switching our perspective to the realm of carbon emission reduction, the pivotal role of renewable energy in mitigating carbon emissions is a well-established fact 32 , 33 . The impetus for the development of renewable energy sources is often rooted in the strategic orchestration of corresponding policies. This phase of the analysis tested whether the renewable energy development is the key mediator of the carbon reduction target partially explaining its effect. With historical renewable installed capacity data from IEA, a classic mediation model is constructed and tested. See more details in the method section. The model result as shown in Fig.  6 and also in Supplementary Table  9 , tells that renewable energy installed capacity did not yield a significant association with carbon reduction targets. The percentile confidence interval of indirect effect, (−0.00118, 0.000230), contained zero. The postulation of a mediating role of renewable energy deployment in the relationship between carbon reduction targets and carbon emissions could not be substantiated.

figure 6

a The coefficients of the mediation model; b The result of indirect effect and direct effect through a bootstrap test. Light blue spike line represents the 99% confidence interval.

There are several expressions for the underlying assumptions for mediation analysis. Here we describe the assumptions following Acharya, et al.’s approach, two assumptions–sequential confoundedness and no intermediate interactions 34 . The sequential unconfoundedness assumption holds when no omitted variables for the effect of treatment on the outcome and mediator, conditional on the pretreatment confounder, and no omitted variables for the effect of the mediator on the outcome, conditional on the treatment, pretreatment confounders, and intermediate confounder. This assumption is challenging to satisfy in the observational study, so we conducted a sensitivity analysis for assessing how large deviations from this assumption have to be to change the results of our study. As shown in Fig.  7 , it indicated that a significant omitted confounder is required to reverse the result of mediating effect test, further supporting that the renewable energy development may not serve as a strong mediator. No intermediate interactions assumption basically assumes that no mediator-outcome confounder is itself affected by the treatment. Although this assumption does not affect the estimation of the direct effect, it is likely that there are other mediators not specified in the model, violating this assumption. Thus, it is possible that the renewable development still acts as a mediator among other mediators while not detected by the current model.

figure 7

Average causal mediation effect as a function of degree of violation of sequential unconfoundedness assumption. Shaded region shows 95% confidence intervals.

Given the discussion above, a substantive explanation is that some other mediators seem to have an indirect effect on carbon emission. One plausible explanation for these findings is that carbon reduction targets do not always explicitly prioritize renewable energy development. Public sector goal-setting often exhibits complexity, as seen in previous research on the public domain 23 . When these goals lack a specific directive for renewable energy development, it’s possible that public sectors may not directly align their efforts in that direction; particularly since renewable energy development is often associated with the private sector in many countries. Furthermore, while renewable energy development remains a pivotal strategy within the energy sector to combat climate change, previous reviews have indicated that numerous countries tend to prioritize enhancing energy efficiency before heavily investing in renewable energy initiatives. This trend has been observed over recent decades 35 . As a result, the intricacies of policy priorities and sector-specific considerations might contribute to the observed lack of a mediating role for renewable energy deployment in the context of carbon reduction targets.

The mediator model also revealed a notable positive and statistically significant relationship between renewable energy capacity and carbon emission intensity. This observation sheds light on previous concerns voiced in the research domain. Specifically, it suggests that the positive impact of renewable energy development on economic growth, alongside an increase in non-renewable energy consumption, may have partially obscured the mitigation effect of renewable energy on carbon emissions. This phenomenon, which has been discussed in earlier studies 35 , 36 , underscores the complex interplay between renewable energy growth, economic expansion, and carbon emissions.

Furthermore, it’s important to acknowledge that the subset of countries demonstrating substantial renewable energy capacity is relatively small within the larger pool of 163 countries. Consequently, the attenuating influence of these countries on overall carbon emissions might be outweighed by the progress of other nations with slower renewable energy development trajectories. Additionally, it’s worth noting that ability, a pivotal concept in goal-setting 27 , can manifest as both a mediating and moderating factor. Variability in abilities across the diverse landscape of 163 countries, encompassing factors such as technical prowess, developmental costs, and human resource availability for renewable energy initiatives, could further obscure the discernible impact of renewable energy capacity on carbon emissions.

Update the emission reduction target with renewable development

It’s imperative to underscore that the establishment of carbon reduction targets necessitates a holistic comprehension of broader socio-economic factors operating at various levels. To unlock the full potential of goal-setting as a policy instrument, particularly in determining the appropriate level of goal difficulty, our analysis extends further. We have introduced an additional model specification designed to unravel the key factors that influence the goal-setting process. These factors encompass dimensions such as income inequality and renewable energy capacity, which wield considerable influence in shaping the formulation of these critical targets. We constructed three models considering different lags when factors affect the difficulty level of carbon emission target. The results of the model can be found in Fig.  8 and Supplementary Table  10 .

figure 8

a Using the cross-sectional data of the year when the target was proposed; b Using the data from two cross-sections (the year when the target was proposed and the year before the target was proposed); c Adopting the data representing three cross-sections (the year when the target was proposed, one year and two years before the target was proposed). Light blue spike line represents the 99% confidence interval. CRT-carbon emission reduction target; PGDP-GDP per capita; IMP-share of import in GDP; SER-share of service sector in GDP; IND-share of industrial sector in GDP; INC-income inequality level; EDU-education level.

Renewable energy installed capacity exhibited a positive and significant association with carbon reduction targets at the 5% level in all three models. This result suggests that countries with higher renewable energy capacity are more inclined to set more aggressive carbon reduction targets. One plausible explanation is that higher renewable energy capacity instills confidence in countries, given its efficacy in curbing carbon emissions. This finding underscores the policy implication that carbon reduction targets should be tailored to align with a country’s renewable energy capacity. In essence, nations with robust renewable energy capabilities should consider setting ambitious carbon reduction targets, leveraging target-setting as a strategic policy tool for achieving decarbonization goals.

The global drive to address climate change has led to a rising number of countries incorporating carbon reduction targets into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), a response to the urgency outlined in the Paris Agreement. Amid this context, comprehending the range of policy tools available for encouraging carbon emission reduction becomes imperative. While previous research has predominantly viewed carbon reduction goals as end objectives, a gap persists in our understanding of whether the act of goal-setting itself could function as an effective policy instrument. Drawing from the tenets of goal-setting theory, which posits that goals can enhance performance even within the public sector, this study explores the potential of target-setting as a tool within climate governance.

Our findings underscore that target-setting can indeed serve as a potent policy tool for climate governance. Through a meticulous difference-in-difference model, we establish that proposing carbon reduction targets and their associated difficulty level correlate with a reduction in carbon emission intensity. Notably, this effect persists and intensifies after the policy’s implementation.

Surprisingly, our analysis does not reveal a mediating role of renewable energy capacity, often considered a primary measure for emission reduction. Instead, we speculate that the reduction mechanism may involve factors such as improved administrative efficiency and social cohesion, both interwoven with education. However, validation of these hypotheses requires further investigation. Accumulated empirical evidence could pave the way for extending the application of goal-setting theory to the realm of climate governance, especially given the inductive development approach of goal-setting theory 27 .

Enhanced alignment with the ambitious 1.5 °C target is conceivable if countries without carbon reduction targets take steps to establish such targets, guiding their emissions reduction efforts. Additionally, countries that have already set targets can adapt and reinforce them based on evolving conditions. Our analysis of influencing factors for target-setting suggests that the difficulty level of targets correlates with renewable energy capacity. Consequently, we recommend that nations with robust renewable energy capabilities consider setting ambitious carbon reduction targets, updating them in tandem with renewable energy growth.

Setting ambitious targets marks just the initial step in the complex journey of climate mitigation, and it is vital to recognize that targets alone do not guarantee desired results. Success hinges on the subsequent strategies and policies enacted to attain these goals. Our study does not diminish the importance of these subsequent strategies; rather, it underscores that climate governance and efforts commence at the very moment of goal-setting, not merely after the goals are set.

Furthermore, the process of announcing national targets within the international community entails intricate negotiations and commitments. While our analysis primarily focused on a selection of domestic factors influencing target-setting, it is paramount to emphasize that we do not diminish the paramount importance of international climate negotiations. On the contrary, we firmly believe that our analysis can contribute to these negotiations, reinforcing the foundations of the Paris Agreement. This landmark agreement relies on the collective commitment of nations to submit their targets, and our research aims to enrich this global effort toward a sustainable future.

Our analysis presents certain limitations that warrant further exploration. As with many empirical studies, our research may be susceptible to omitted variables not accounted for in the model, potentially impacting our findings. While the parallel trends test offers evidence of pre-treatment parallel trends, the possibility of endogeneity arising from unobservable factors cannot be entirely ruled out. Future research endeavors could aim to identify suitable instrumental variables to bolster the robustness of our results.

The annual granularity of the dataset prevents the analysis of shorter-term effects, impeding the investigation of interactions between climate targets and other policies. To address this, a more detailed analysis at a finer temporal resolution could examine how different administrative bodies and branches of government respond to national climate targets, shedding light on the potential improvement in administrative efficiency. Moreover, the study’s current horizon might not fully encompass the profound impacts of climate targets, given that major projects and policy interventions could extend beyond the time frame of the dataset. Lastly, while we couldn’t substantiate the mechanism of carbon reduction targets affecting CO 2 emissions in this analysis, future research might delve into this by incorporating government efficiency data as a reflection of policy response.

The econometric model

The concept of goal-setting theory has been meticulously nurtured within the domain of industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology, growing from the bedrock of rigorous empirical investigations. Over time, it has ascended to become one of the foremost theories in the expansive realm of I/O psychology. Consistent with a participative goal in the goal-setting theory 27 , a multitude of nations have proactively integrated an array of carbon reduction targets into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as a direct response to the climate mitigation benchmarks set forth by the IPCC.

Pioneering research has unveiled the far-reaching impact of goal-setting across both individual and organizational strata. Goals function as dynamic motivators, propelling goal performers toward their accomplishment 17 , 18 , 19 . This knowledge underpins our hypothesis that the instrumental role of goal-setting might extend to its utilization as a policy instrument for the reduction of carbon emissions. Beyond the individual and organizational context, goal-setting exhibits a discursive influence at the national level. This influence reverberates through localized policies enacted at both the national and local tiers, all with the shared objective of fostering goal achievement 25 . Concurrently, the efficacy of public policy implementation gains augmentation through the infusion of goal-setting principles 23 . These insights collectively suggest that national-level goal-setting might engender a comparable mechanism, triggering discursive effects that facilitate both policy enactment and goal realization. Further reinforcing the utility of goal-setting, recent findings at the municipal level bolster its standing as a potent tool in the realm of climate governance 24 . On the international stage, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stand as a premier paradigm for embedding goal-setting into the fabric of global policy and climate governance frameworks 26 , 37 . This naturally prompts the expectation that SDGs would exert a pronounced influence on nation-level governance dynamics. Emanating from the premise that a nation embodies an amalgam of cities and functions as a principal actor in global governance, the potential impact of national carbon reduction targets on a country’s dynamics aligns with similar mechanisms. Anchored in the above analyses, our research endeavors culminated in the formulation of Hypothesis 1 and Hypothesis 2.

Hypothesis 1: Setting a carbon reduction target could have a negative impact on CO2 emission intensity .

Hypothesis 2: A more ambitious target could lead to more reduction in CO2 emission intensity .

Considering the diversity in the timing of carbon reduction target proposals across countries, we adopted a TWFE difference-in-differences methodology to assess the influence of carbon reduction targets on CO 2 emissions. The assessment was grounded in the following regression model:

where CI it represented CO 2 emission per unit of Gross Domestic Production (GDP) in country i during year t . The focal independent variable D i,t , constituted a binary variable representing the presence of a carbon reduction target. It held the value of 1 in the years when country i had already put forth its carbon reduction targets, and 0 otherwise. CRT i,t symbolized the complexity of the proposed target, quantified as the annual average emission reduction intensity.

Additionally, X i,t encompassed an array of control variables, described in more details in the following. In parallel, λ t and μ i signified sets of year-specific and country-specific variables, capturing fixed effects that accounted for unobservable characteristics varying either across years but not countries, or across countries but not years. In concert, ε it denoted the idiosyncratic error term, manifesting variability across both countries and years.

Mediating effect of renewable capacity

If we consider the viability of the emission reduction target as a policy instrument, the subsequent inquiry revolves around elucidating the underlying mechanisms. Drawing inspiration from the tenets of goal-setting theory, it becomes apparent that certain goal mediators—such as choice, effort, ability, persistence, and self-efficacy—play a pivotal role in potentially mediating the impact of goals on performance dynamics 27 . Switching our perspective to the realm of carbon emission reduction, the pivotal role of renewable energy in mitigating carbon emissions is a well-established fact 32 , 33 . The impetus for the development of renewable energy sources is often rooted in the strategic orchestration of corresponding policies. Consequently, it stands to reason that when a nation sets a carbon reduction target, it might logically be accompanied by a complementary renewable energy target. This inference leads us to consider renewable energy as a potent mediator—a conscious endeavor by countries to align their actions with the pursuit of carbon reduction targets.

This line of reasoning finds support in prior research, which has underscored that the presence of renewable energy targets effectively expedites the expansion of renewable energy infrastructure 38 , 39 . Similarly, at the organizational level, investigations have illuminated a noteworthy and affirmative correlation between the adoption of climate change mitigation targets by companies and heightened investments in renewable energy ventures 40 . Building on these insights, we extrapolate that the establishment of national carbon reduction targets could subsequently propel the development of renewable energy sources, thereby engendering a consequential contribution to the overarching objective of curtailing carbon emissions. With these considerations in mind, we posit our Hypothesis 3.

Hypothesis 3: Carbon reduction targets reduce CO 2 emission mediated through renewable installed capacity .

To corroborate Hypothesis 3, as elucidated in the preceding theoretical analysis, we embarked on a mediating effect evaluation. To this end, we adopted the causal steps approach, akin to previous research methodologies 41 that performed a bootstrap test to further ascertain the presence of a mediating effect. To test the veracity of Hypothesis 3, we established additional Eqs.  2 and  3 as outlined below:

Where RE i,t was the renewable energy capacity as the mediating variable, and other variables were set as in Eq.  1 . The coefficient β of Eq.  1 was the total effect of the independent variable D i,t on the dependent variable CI i,t . Meanwhile, the coefficient η 1 in Eq.  2 was the effect of the independent variable D i,t on the mediating variable RE i,t . The coefficient φ 2 in Eq.  3 was the effect of the mediating variable RE i,t on the dependent variable CI i,t after controlling for the effect of the independent variable D i,t . In addition, the coefficient φ 1 was the direct effect of the independent variable D i,t on the dependent variable CI i,t after controlling for the effect of the mediating variable RE i,t . Together, Eqs.  1 – 3 were meticulously formulated to scrutinize and validate the premises of Hypothesis 3.

Model about how targets are determined

Should goal-setting emerge as a potent policy tool for climate governance, a consequential inquiry emerges: how should these targets be established in practice? We duly acknowledge that the process of target setting is a complex endeavor involving meticulous research and intricate negotiations. Nevertheless, distilling a subset of factors that exert influence on the goal-setting process can provide invaluable insights for informed policymaking. With the intent of unraveling the key determinants that shape the establishment of carbon reduction targets, we devised the ensuing model for comprehensive evaluation.

where CRT i was the intensity of carbon reduction target proposed by country i , described in more detail in the following. X’ i are a series of control variables which include carbon emission intensity CI i , renewable energy capacity RE i and other control variables as in Eq.  1 except CRT . Considering that goal-setting is influenced by more than just the data from the year when the target was proposed, we created three models to facilitate comparison. The first model took the cross-sectional data of the year when the target was proposed, while the second model used the data from two cross-sections (the year when the target was proposed and the year before the target was proposed), and the last model adopted the data representing three cross-sections (the year when the target was proposed, one year and two years before the target was proposed).

Data description

CO 2 emission intensity ( CI ) was measured by CO2 emission per GDP (kg CO2e per USD). This particular approach, focusing on emission intensity rather than absolute emissions, serves to account for the influences of various factors intricately linked with population growth and economic development. Data pertaining to CO 2 emissions intensity across the span of 163 countries and the years spanning 2011 to 2022 was meticulously sourced from EDGAR (Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research) Community GHG Database 42 . Within this dataset, we successfully compiled a comprehensive set of 1884 country-year observations, encompassing instances of limited data availability.

The term DID (Difference-in-Differences) is encapsulated by the dummy variable D i,t which signifies the presence of carbon reduction targets. Specifically, for the control group, D i,t  = 0 while for the treatment group, D i,t  = 1 in when country i had already introduced carbon reduction targets, and D i,t  = 0 otherwise. As previously indicated, the treatment group encompasses countries that have submitted NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), while the control group comprises nations that did not submit NDCs during the research timeframe. It’s noteworthy that countries submitting NDCs without explicit targets were excluded from the analysis, leading to a final count of 117 countries in the treatment group and 46 countries in the control group. We have also acknowledged U.S.’s D i,t and CRT about its withdrawal from and rejoining of the Paris Agreement and changed the values of these variables accordingly.

CRT constitutes a continuous treatment parameter, signifying the complexity of the target. It operates in conjunction with the primary independent variable D i,t to offer a more nuanced insight into how the target’s intricacies influence carbon emissions. This variable is defined as the annual average emission reduction intensity ( ω ) as depicted in Eq.  5 , in which ω a symbolizes the carbon emission intensity in the year of target proposal a and ω b denotes the carbon emission intensity in the target year b .

For the control group, CRT it  = 0. For the treatment group, CRT it  =  ω in the years when country i had already proposed the carbon reduction targets and CRT it  = 0 otherwise. This continuous treatment variable possesses the capacity to effectively encapsulate the range of variations in target difficulty, thereby reflecting a pivotal aspect of the goal-setting theory.

For numerous countries, the computation of carbon reduction can be directly deduced from the figures outlined in the NDCs. For targets that deviate from a “business-as-usual” scenario within the NDCs, carbon emission forecast data were sourced from Liu and Raftery 43 . The carbon emission intensity for the target year was determined by dividing carbon emissions for the said year by the projected GDP for that period. The GDP projections were drawn from the Centre for Economics and Business Research 44 .

The mediating variable was designated as renewable energy installed capacity ( RE ). This encompassed a spectrum of renewable sources, including bioenergy, solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, geothermal energy, and marine energy. Our data collection spanned the period from 2011 to 2022 across 163 countries, utilizing the comprehensive renewable energy capacity figures furnished by the International Renewable Energy Agency 45 .

The vector of control variables, X i,t , has several components. The first component is economic development, quantified through GDP per capita ( PGDP ). Prior investigations have underscored the influence of economic growth relative to population expansion on carbon emission intensity 46 , 47 , 48 . Three further variables about economic structure ( IMP , SER and IND ), respectively corresponding to import share, the size of the service sector and the industry sector have been proven to affect emissions significantly. Previous research has indicated that trade openness and foreign direct investment can elevate emissions through pollution-intensive investments 49 , 50 . Meanwhile, reduced reliance on the industry sector and a flourishing service sector have been linked to emissions reduction 13 , 51 . Another variable about education, ( EDU ), quantified by the gross enrollment ratio of tertiary education, plays a pivotal role. This ratio signifies total enrollment in tertiary education relative to the corresponding population age group. Earlier studies on the influence of advanced human capital, peroxided by the number of tertiary schooling years, exert a negative effect on CO 2 emissions 52 . Enhanced education is linked to environmental awareness, driving the adoption of eco-friendly technologies 53 , as well as fostering innovative approaches to energy consumption and technology development 54 . All the above five variables were retrieved from the World Development Indicators database 55 .

The final control variable, income inequality ( INC ), gauged by the share of pre-tax national income among the top 10% of equal-split adults, was derived from the World Wealth and Income Database 56 . Addressing the complex relationship between inequality and carbon emissions, prior studies have yielded divergent outcomes; nevertheless, the effect is statistically significant and should be controlled. Some researchers reported a positive relationship between inequality and carbon emission 57 , 58 ; contrariwise, others found that when income was more evenly distributed, the poor had a higher propensity to consume energy and other products, leading to an increase in total carbon emissions 59 . Meanwhile, some scholars argued that the link between inequality and carbon emissions might not be linear and might also vary with the degree of inequality 60 , 61 .

Descriptive statistics

Given the multifaceted nature of our variables, the possibility of interdependency issues necessitated scrutiny. Our investigation encompassed descriptive statistics and correlation analyses, detailed in Supplementary Table  1 and Supplementary Table  2 . Correlation coefficients remained below 0.6, with the exception of PGDP and EDU which reached 0.740. The variance inflation factors were less than 6, with the exception of PGDP which reached 0.740, indicating that the problem of multicollinearity among the study variables is not a concern.

Within the scope of variables and data availability, our study harnessed a total of 1173 complete observations across year-country combinations. While some variables experienced missing data, our dataset robustly captures global emissions trends. From 2011 to 2022, the 1173 year-country observations accounted for approximately 90% of global carbon dioxide emissions during all the period.

Applicability test

Our analysis commenced with the application of various regression methodologies—pooled regression (OLS), fixed-effect model (FEM), and random-effect model (REM)—utilizing STATA. As a precursor, we subjected the fixed-effect model (FEM) to an F test, resulting in a P value of 0.0000 (< 0.05), indicating the substantial rejection of the null hypothesis “ H 0 : all u i  = 0”, and FEM was significantly better than OLS. LM test of REM regression yielded a P value of 0.0000 < 0.05, which also supported rejecting the null hypothesis “ H 0 : all σ u 2  = 0” and indicating that the pooled regression should not be used. The result of the Hausman test had a P value of 0.0000, which robustly rejected the null hypothesis of “difference in coefficients not systematic.” This outcome indicated that the fixed-effect model should be used. By generating time dummy variables and testing the joint significance of time dummy variables (a P value of 0.0021 < 0.05), we rejected the null hypothesis of “no time effect” and determined that the time fixed effect should be included in the model. Therefore, a two-way fixed effects model was finally used.

Parallel trend test

The foundational principle underpinning the application of the difference-in-differences model hinges on the concept of the parallel trend test. Within this study’s framework, we operate under the presumption that the carbon emission intensity of both the treatment group and control group countries followed parallel trajectories prior to the implementation of national carbon reduction targets. This supposition of parallel trends is scrutinized via the event study approach, akin to methodologies adopted in prior research endeavors 62 , 63 , 64 . A certain year before the policy or the current period of target implementation needs to be selected as the baseline reference period to encapsulate the foundational disparity between the geographical domains where the event transpired and where it did not. Thus, we embarked on estimating the subsequent equation:

Within Eq.  6 , the policy variable stands as a relative temporal construct, characterized by the temporal distance from the policy intervention within the respective time interval. This configuration captures the fluctuation in policy effect in the period τ preceding or ensuring the implementation of the treatment. For the control group, the dummy variable is designated as 0, whereas for the treatment group, Dummy adopts a value of 1, indicating that the policy was enacted τ years ago or will be enacted after τ years; otherwise, its value remains at 0. Since the carbon emission intensity in the current period of policy effective date may already be affected by the carbon reduction targets, the first year preceding the policy instead of the current period of policy is taken as the base period. We dropped the first lagged year Dummy i,1 representing the first year preceding the policy and considered it as baseline reference period, which could avoid the multi-collinearity. The remaining variables echo the composition of Eq.  1 . Consequently, the regression coefficient β τ of Dummy when τ < 0 signifies statistical insignificance, affirms a lack of meaningful difference from the baseline period and thereby corroborates the tenets of the parallel trend hypothesis.

The placebo test

The placebo test is an analysis conducted using a “false” dummy variable of carbon reduction target to test whether the reduction of carbon emission intensity reduction could be significantly affected. If it is still significantly negative, it indicates that the effect of carbon reduction target in the benchmark regression is not reliable and may be caused by other unobservable factors. In order to further rule out the effect of other unknown influential factors, the placebo test was conducted through 1000 times of random sampling. Each time, 117 countries were randomly selected using the “sample” command in STATA from all samples as the “false” treatment group, and the remaining 46 countries were used as the control group. The corresponding target proposal time of each treatment group was also randomly generated, indicating that a new treatment group was constructed with randomly selected countries and proposal times. The value of “false” dummy variables is then set according to the treatment groups and proposal times.

Data availability

The authors declare that all the data used in this analysis could be found at ( https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.21748160 ). Specifically, the data for emission intensity can be found at https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/ . National Determined Contribution data can be found at https://unfccc.int/NDCREG . Future GDP forecast can be found at https://cebr.com/service/macroeconomic-forecasting/ . Historical renewable capacity data can be found at https://www.irena.org/Data/Downloads/IRENASTAT . Historical GDP per capita, GDP share of different sectors, and education level data can be found at https://databank.worldbank.org/reports.aspx?source=World-Development-Indicators . The income inequality data can be found at https://wid.world/data/ .

Code availability

All custom code used to generate results that are reported in this paper and central to its main claims are available on Figshare ( https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.21748160 ). The analysis was carried out using STATA.

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Zheng, Y., Shan, R., Xu, W.(. et al. Effectiveness of carbon dioxide emission target is linked to country ambition and education level. Commun Earth Environ 5 , 209 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-024-01373-z

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A child playing with building blocks

Childcare in England failing and falling behind much of world, charity says

Fawcett Society warns sector is lacking in ambition and delivery and calls for free ‘universal’ hours

  • Labour in a bind over much-needed childcare reform

England’s childcare system is failing and falling behind those of much of the rest of the world, a UK charity for gender equality and women’s rights has said.

The Fawcett Society said childcare in England was failing on several fronts: affordability, quality and levels of public spending.

The charity looked at early childhood education and care (ECEC) provision in Australia, Canada, Estonia, France, and Ireland – all countries that have recently completed or are undergoing government-led transformation in the sector – and found England’s childcare fell short in ambition and delivery.

The findings echo numerous warnings on the state of childcare in England, with surveys finding that a third of parents with young children say they are struggling to afford childcare , nurseries warning that government plans for free childcare are undeliverable , and about a quarter of a million mothers with young children leaving their jobs because of difficulties with balancing work and childcare .

The most recent change to England’s childcare system, which came into force this month, was an expansion of free hours. The Fawcett Society said that while this was welcome for some families, the narrow focus of the expansion would not help those who are disadvantaged and would not address the wider issues with the system.

The charity argues in its report that the government should offer free “universal” hours of ECEC provision for all children from the end of parental leave until school age.

Jemima Olchawski, the Fawcett Society’s chief executive, said: “Our childcare is some of the most expensive in the world and it isn’t working. Research shows that 85% of mothers struggle to find childcare that fits around their work and one in 10 have quit jobs due to childcare pressures.

“For too long we’ve seen the cracks in our dysfunctional childcare system papered over. We’ve got a patchwork of provision that doesn’t meet the needs of children, parents or the childcare sector. But a broken system isn’t inevitable, as the countries in our research clearly show. We need politicians from all parties to work together and make genuine commitments that last beyond this election – and indeed the next – to reform childcare.

“There are plenty of countries around the world who simply do childcare better and we should be learning from their ambition. As we approach a general election, all parties need to be aware that any credible vision for transforming childcare mustn’t simply offer bolt-ons to a crumbling system. We must be more ambitious, particularly when it has such an impact on both children’s life chances and women’s ability to work.”

The report outlines a plan for long-term reform in England that includes building on and expanding the existing “free hours” to make the offer open to all children, not just those of working parents, with extra subsidies for the poorest to enable them to afford to supplement the universal offer, and fee freezes for everyone.

The report also recommends providing funding to nurseries so they can operate in unprofitable areas, and support inclusion for all children.

Alesha De-Freitas, the director of policy, research and advocacy at the Fawcett Society, said: “Affordability is clearly essential but we’ve got stuck on it. When you look at other countries, you find a richness to the conversations about what is genuinely best for children that is so different to the UK.”

The Fawcett Society report warns that “designing a system which is focused narrowly on [affordability] without strengthening and resourcing the system … may ultimately be counterproductive and unable to meet the demands it has set up”. There is ample international evidence that higher-quality childcare has huge long-term economic and social benefits, it says.

“The early years of a child’s life are so important – the evidence for that is growing all the time,” De-Freitas added. “It really impacts on children’s long-term outcomes and access to education. We should be aiming for so much better than just having somewhere for parents to park their children while they’re at work.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This government is delivering the largest ever expansion of childcare in England’s history, set to save parents taking up the full 30 hours an average of £6,900 for the new entitlements.

“Working parents on universal credit are also eligible for support with childcare costs no matter how many hours they work, up to £1,015 per month for a single child and £1,739 for two children. England has some of the highest-quality early years provision in the world, with 96% of early years settings rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding as of August 2023 – up from 74% in 2012.”

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Qatar’s push for gender equality in international diplomacy highlighted.

Former President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė (center), with Ambassador of South Africa to Qatar, H E Ghulam Hoosein Asmal (right), speaking in a session on why gender still matters in foreign policy.

Former President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė (center), with Ambassador of South Africa to Qatar, H E Ghulam Hoosein Asmal (right), speaking in a session on why gender still matters in foreign policy.

Fazeena Saleem | The Peninsula

Doha, Qatar: Qatar’s efforts, which have brought about changes in women’s role in international relations and diplomacy, were highlighted and acknowledged during Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q)’s Hiwaraat conference on Thursday. 

At the conference on ‘Gender in Foreign Policy,’ prominent diplomats and experts discussed timely topics and how to improve foreign policy and practice by gender-informed approaches across multiple contexts.

Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the UN in New York, H E Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani, in a recorded video address during the conference’s opening session, highlighted Qatar’s global leadership in championing women’s rights.

“The state of Qatar has been a strong player in making sure that the human rights and gender equality principles are part of the commitments,” she said.

She further explained Qatar’s ongoing efforts to encourage women’s role in international relations and diplomacy, especially through the Group of Friends on Gender Parity.

She said, “The role of women in international relations and diplomacy has undergone a significant transformation.”

However, noting that only four women have held the presidency of the UN General Assembly, Sheikha Alya said, “Though the number of women permanent representatives has increased greatly, the UN General Assembly is still far from having a gender-equal representation.”

She also highlighted Qatar’s efforts in adopting the International Day to Protect Education from Attack marks a significant achievement in promoting and protecting girls’ education, especially in conflict zones. 

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The Dean of GU-Q, Dr. Safwan Masri, highlighted that seven in ten students at GU-Q are women, saying it shows the potential to bring a new gender balance to the diplomatic field.

“More than ever, we need more women at the foreign policy table. And I can think of no better expression of [GU-Q’s] mission and values than today’s discussion on gender in foreign policy.”  During the conference, several other seasoned women diplomats reflected on the importance of diversity in decision-making processes. They highlighted the role of education and mentoring in creating more access for women at the decision-making level.

US Deputy Chief of Mission in Qatar, Natalie Baker, opened the session on Gender in Conflict Situations, drawing on examples from her diplomatic career. She discussed why women’s voices are essential in diplomacy and conflict resolution. “Women should have a seat at the table and negotiate the end of conflict and in post-conflict, peace-building efforts, and reforms, and we should insist on it. Women should have a chance to serve their societies in post-conflict scenarios, offer opportunities to transform society, its structures, and its governance to include greater, greater support for women’s rights, inclusion, and empowerment,” she said.

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Baker also focused on separate actions taken by Qatar and the US government to equip women with the tools they need to prepare for leadership positions. The US government supports a number of educational and professional exchange programs that aim to build skills and diverse networks among women and girls,” she said.   

Highlighting that Education City offers education for women, including those from countries that prohibit education for girls, Baker said, “…Thorough the Qatar Foundation  H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser has built in a model of excellence in supporting education and training in conflict zones and underdeveloped nations around the world.” She also commended GU-Q’s Diplomat for a Day program, which offers women students insight into diplomacy and international affairs from senior women diplomats.  

The conference’s sessions connected perspectives from the Global North and Global South and highlighted positive examples of countries, including Lithuania, South Africa, and the European Union, actively striving to achieve a gender balance in diplomatic postings.

Another prominent speaker during the conference was former President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė who strongly presented her views on gender and diplomacy said that gender is no longer under discussion in her country because gender parity is a fully accepted fact of life.  Grybauskaitė was speaking along with the Ambassador of South Africa to Qatar, H E Ghulam Hoosein Asmal, in a session on why gender still matters in foreign policy.  She emphasized that women should be appointed to positions, including diplomacy, upon excellence, and it should be a natural process.  In advice for women to lead, she said, “Build resilience and protect yourself from all attacks…The more you are on top, the more you need to be more resilient.”


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Education Commentary

Department of Education’s New Title IX Rule Just as Bad as Expected 

Sarah Parshall Perry / @SarahPPerry / April 19, 2024

Under the Biden administration’s sweeping new Title IX rule, any K-12 school or institution of higher education that receives any federal funding would have to open girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms to biological boys who claim to “identify” as girls. (Photo: Getty Images)


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The Department of Education just released its long-delayed Title IX rule —a rewrite of the 50 year-old civil rights law so vast that it promises to turn Title IX’s guarantee of sex equality in education completely upside down.  

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is all of a single sentence. It simply bars sex discrimination in any federally funded education program. It does not matter how much federal funding a school or institution of higher education receives. And it does not matter whether such funding from the federal government is direct or indirect. So yes, even the vast majority of private schools must comply with the rule.   

But this simple longstanding prohibition on sex discrimination has been manipulated by the Biden administration to both undermine constitutional freedoms—like the freedom of speech—and erase the very women that Title IX was enacted to protect.  

The Department of Education has unilaterally expanded the prohibition against discrimination based on “sex” to include a prohibition against discrimination based on: “sex stereotypes, sex-related characteristics (including intersex traits), pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” 

Under the Biden administration’s sweeping new Title IX rule, any K–12 school or institution of higher education that receives any federal funding would have to open girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, housing accommodations, sports teams, and any other sex-separated educational program or offering to biological boys who claim to “identify” as girls. Similarly, boys’ facilities would have to be accessible to biological girls who “identify” as boys. 

And the law’s decimation of equality doesn’t stop there. The regulations also eliminate due process protections for students accused of sexual misconduct (like the right to call witnesses, introduce evidence, or be represented by counsel during an investigation), and violates the First Amendment to the Constitution by forcing teachers and fellow students to use of a student’s “preferred pronouns.”  

The regulations also require K-12 schools to accept a child’s gender identity regardless of biological sex without providing any notice to, much less seeking the approval of, the child’s parents. 

And while the Education Department has punted, at least for the moment, on its second Title IX rule—one that applies only to athletics—the Biden administration’s representation that sports are not included in today’s rule is a complete head fake. By expanding the definition of “sex” to include “gender identity” and applying the rule to all “extracurricular activities,” male and female athletic teams will be a thing of the past. Indeed, the word “athletics” appears in the new rule at least 31 times. 

Furthermore, the Department of Education’s reading of Title IX lacks any support in the text of the title, its implementing regulations, and the law’s congressional history.  

Congress had a chance in 1987 to amend the Title IX “sex” definition to include “gender identity,” when it amended Title IX under the Civil Rights Restoration Act. But it did not.  

Executive agencies are empowered only to promulgate “rules” or “regulations” that implement or interpret laws passed by Congress—not to create completely new laws.  

Apparently, the Department of Education has forgotten that.   

Now the question isn’t if legal challenges will follow, but how fast they’ll come.  

The Independent Women’s Law Center has already indicated it is readying a lawsuit against the Department of Education. Others are likely to follow. Let’s hope so. 

education equality articles

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Girls Shine in UP Board Class 12 Results 2024: Gender Gap Persists

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  1. Why Access to Education is Key to Systemic Equality

    Education equity means all students have equal access to a high quality education, safe learning environment, and a diverse student body that enriches the educational experiences of all students. As the Supreme Court said in Brown v. Board of Education, education "is the very foundation of good citizenship.".

  2. Why Is Education So Important in The Quest for Equality?

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    Most people working in education agree that "educational equity" is an important aim of schooling. 1 However, the almost universal acknowledgment that equity is a valuable goal can obscure very real differences in what various people and organizations mean by "equity" and how they operationalize it. The lack of a clear definition of equity in the education field means that individuals ...

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    The role that racial and ethnic identity play with respect to equity and opportunity in education. The history of education in the United States is rife with instances of violence and oppression along lines of race and ethnicity. For educators, leading conversations about race and racism is a challenging, but necessary, part of their work.

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    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlights gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a separate Sustainable Development Goal 5. This goal is closely intertwined with SDG 4, which emphasizes the right to inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning, and SDG target 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all ...

  21. SDG Goal 4: Quality Education

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  28. Department of Education's New Title IX Rule Just as Bad as Expected

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