Equity and inclusion

Equity & Inclusion

Activity: What does equity have to do with inclusion?

Before we launch into answering this question we must first consider what we mean by equity and how it relates to equality, as the two ideas are tied to inclusion.


The commonly accepted ideal of equality in most Western democracies sees all people of equal status simply because they are human. Moreover, to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender, class, socio-economic position, culture, ethnicity, race, sexuality or disability violates the basic ideal of equality.This ideal of equality is also the basis for policies of inclusion. We need to critically consider in our educational practices anything that unnecessarily (without good reason) excludes individuals or groups from educational opportunities. Conversely, we ought to be promoting practices which promote equality and inclusion.

Difference and diversity

Humans are all different and our institutions are always not fair meaning that we find ourselves (as individuals and/or as members of certain groups) disadvantaged and/or in circumstances that are not at all or not entirely of our own doing.

Group reflection

To what extent are your circumstances of your own doing?

  • Do you choose where you are born?
  • Do you choose your family?
  • Do you choose what your family provides for you? (Think broadly about this question).

Consider these questions for the children who you will teach.

One could argue that there are some things in life that we have little or any control over. It is worth reflecting on some of these things and the extent to which they have influenced areas of our lives.

Discuss in your group the role the following things have played in your life and in the lives of those both around you and in distant places:

  • where you were born (country, state, suburb)
  • gender, class, socio-economic position, culture, race, sexuality, disability
  • the family you were born into and the family who raised you (what assets did they have, what did they inherit – think broadly here)
  • individual health.

If one of the the areas above has influenced your access and/or opportunities for, achievement in the following areas of your life and the lives of others?

  • education
  • health (being healthy)
  • employment
  • wellbeing/happiness
  • rights
  • political representation and participation


Two images of persons of varying heights

Image: http://interactioninstitute.org/illustrating-equality-vs-equity/

Equity in the justice sense (not the financial) usually refers to the unequal or differing distribution of something  (goods, services, access, opportunities etc.) in order to make the situation or circumstances just or fair in opportunities for either achieving important human needs or exercising rights or capabilities, for example.  Consider the image above. The equal distribution of the wooden crates, in this circumstance (to the left), produces an unequal outcome because of the differences in height of the three people. In the image above the equitable (unequal/differing) allocation allows for the need, to be able to see over the fence, to be achieved.

The idea of equity and equitable allocations are based on a notion of equality in which there are important aspects of being a human that ought to be respected. For some, what is important is based on our shared human needs and form the basis for Universal Human Rights.

Similarly, Martha Nussbaum, has argued that her approach to justice ‘Begins with the idea that all human beings have an inherent dignity and require life circumstances that are worthy of that dignity’. Moreover, this approach asserts that there are important human capabilities that all people ought to have the opportunity to exercise and this is what should form the basis of a just society. Nussbaum’s approach is connected to Aristotle’s idea of society ‘providing each and every person with what they need to become capable of living rich and flourishing lives’.[1]

You can watch more on this from Martha Nussbaum on YouTube


In groups or as a class, discuss what you would consider to be required or essential elements for each person to become capable of living rich and flourishing life that is worthy of the dignity of life: A good life.

You might like to use the UN’s Human rights or something like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a leaping off point for your discussion. You can compare your list to Nussbaum’s List:

Life, bodily health, bodily integrity, the development of the senses (imagination and thought), the development of practical reasoning, the development of affiliation (informal in the family, friendship but also in the political community), the development of the ability to play and recreational opportunities, the ability to have relationships with other creatures and the world of nature, the developing emotional capabilities (we don’t want to live in fear for example).

Now consider what achieving everything on your list or one of the examples (Nussbaum’s list, UN Human Rights etc.) would require from individuals and/or the society by discussing the following questions:

  • Can you think of individuals who are advantaged from opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life?
  • Can you think of individuals who are disadvantaged from opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life?
  • Are there groups which are advantaged in their opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life?
  • Are there groups which are disadvantaged from opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life?
  • Is it okay that some individuals or groups are excluded from opportunities to achieve the outcomes you believe form the basis of a flourishing life because of our social and or political arrangements?
  • Is it possible for each person to be able to achieve a flourishing life? What would it require?