As part of the Women’s History Month celebrations, we’re shining a spotlight on Innovation in Education and taking a look at all the interesting ideas around how education can help to ‘level up’ an inequitable society.

Read our ‘Equity vs Equality’ article for International Women’s Day here.

Education is a crucial part of society that should be equitable on all grounds. However, recent studies and statistics have shown that this is in fact not the case. National statistics published by the Department for Education on all English pupils, as well as a detailed sample of young people from across the UK shows there are clear inequalities in education.  

The statistics show that children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds or households did worse in school. Only 57% of children who are eligible for free school meals are assessed as having a good level of development in meeting early learning goals, compared with 74% of children from better-off households. These inequalities persist through primary school, into secondary school and beyond.  

There is increasing discussion on how socio-demographic characteristics, such as economic disadvantage, ethnicity, disability and gender are related to educational inequality and attainment gaps, and the long-term implications for the individual and society. 

School closures and ongoing educational disruption may widen the disadvantage gap, undoing any progress made during the past decade. Experts note the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase educational inequalities and attainment gaps for multiple reasons.  

The issue here is finding a way to mitigate these educational inequalities before they evolve into greater inequalities in adulthood. Education can also impact upon some of the inequalities people face in the business world.  Issues such as unconscious bias have long lasting effects and becomes an accumulating problem.  

However there have been some movements and strategies set in place to help address these issues in early-years child development. One of the more popular strategies is embracing different delivery methods for teaching. Take Montessori learning for example, which focuses on hands-on learning that is tailored to what the children do and how they learn in groups.  

Institute auf dem Rosenberg, a Swiss boarding school, implemented the use of AI technology with teaching. The school’s director and head of innovation is a woman named Anita Gademann, who saw the potential of AI five years ago and has since incorporated it into their curriculum to help level the playing field and bring more innovative technologies into the education system. 

Schools are implementing e-learning more and more into the curriculum. The pandemic has had a significant and potentially lasting effect on education, with EdTech seeing accelerated adoption on a mass scale. EdTech companies that offer technology platforms and apps for education and learning are seeing demand soar, as schools and parents seek help to deliver home-schooling. 

Gamified learning is another very popular mode of teaching that is used by teachers. Applications like Doodle Maths and Duolingo are gaining popularity in schools as they encourage children to learn new things in a fun and interactive environment. A lot of these apps are designed for children in mind and students can play a game and learn at the same time killing two birds with one stone.  

A final trend to watch out for is influencer-led education. ‘Edu-influencers’ provide freely available video and other content to their followers beyond formal and accredited education programmes, and mostly work outside educational institutions. There has never been a more fruitful time for self-directed learning, available on-demand.

Young people from better-off families do better at all levels of the education system. They start out ahead and they end up being more qualified as adults. Instead of being an engine for social mobility, the UK’s education system allows inequalities at home to turn into differences in school achievement. This means that all too often, today’s education inequalities become tomorrow’s income inequalities.