A PHILOSOPHICAL APPRAISAL OF THE RAWLSIAN CONCEPT OF EQUALITY IN NIGERIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM
Idumange, John (written 2007)
This paper is a philosophical appraisal of the Rawlsian concept of equality in the Nigerian educational system. The thrust of the Rawlsian principle is social justice and equality based on the criterion of fairness. Fairness, according to Rawls is obtained when the rule (procedure) and effects (outcomes) of social distributions favour the advantaged and least-advantaged members of any group. Using the Universal Declaration of human Rights (1948), the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and the National Policy on Education (2004), as theoretical framework, the paper examines the basic philosophical issues and the dimensions of providing equal educational opportunity in Nigeria against the background the educational opportunities. The ultimate objective is to entrench the principle of egalitarianism as a sine qua non for building just society. In a regime of massification of education and increasing involvement of private participation in education service delivery, the effective application of the Rawlsian principle, with fairness as its solar plexus will improve curricula and pedagogy. But the contentious question of “Equal educational opportunities for what? Will continue to enliven the penumbrae of on-going philosophical discours”.
The quest for equality has continued to engage the attention of philosophers across time and space. Although equality is not a straight forward concept because of the immensely complex nature of human beings and societal preferences, advocates of equal opportunities are basically concerned with the principles of fairness, equity and justice. These concepts are concerned with how to treat people as moral person (human beings) and allocate to the, shares of certain limited resources and provide for their welfare using a justifiable principle or rule of sharing. Justice in relation to equality seeks to ascertain how people should be treated in the distribution of all or certain social resources, welfare and roles. Equality makes sense when there are adequate considerations of people's attributes and capabilities, as well as the type treatment to people must of necessity involve the application of appropriate rules and criteria. Although, the problematic of equality and justice are central issues in moral and social philosophy, the penumbrae of existing theories of equality and justice are further enlivened by contemporary arguments put forward by scholars on the subject.
Equity thinking has been popularized in recent times because of the rising cost of education at all levels. This is a global phenomenon aggravated economic recession and inflation. In the same vein, there is consensus that the education is dwindling. Anikweze (1999) believes that in the course of expansion of the educational system quality has to give way to quantitative expansion; this has also affected school tone, discipline, morality, hard work negatively. More than ever, investment thinking, which has led to privatization of education, has made it difficult for government to provide equal access. There is the issue of over-poloticisation of education at all levels. Politics has in several permutations affected admission policies, funding, management and appointment of administrators.
The Rawlsian principle of justice as fairness is one yardstick which has gained general acceptance as a doctrine for the degree of fairness in some societies. Basically, Rawl's asserts that Justice can be equated to fairness with respect to equality of educational opportunity. This paper critically examines the concepts of equality and justice in relation to the Rawlsian postulation. The paper x-rays the philosophical basis equality of educational opportunity and highlights the challenges facing the pursuit of providing equal and adequate educational opportunity for all Nigerians. The pragmatic utility of the Rawlsian principles are weighed and strategies for the realization of equal educational opportunities for all Nigerians are visualized.
Philosophical and Legal Basis
Equity consciousness in education service delivery is not a novel concept in philosophical discourse. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) avers that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. The declaration further states that everyone has the right to education. It is thus logical to assert that education is a fundamental human right, which should apply to all men irrespective of tribe, religion or pedigree. Further, Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory…” Such statements are found in the declarations that emerged from a series of United Nations Regional Conferences on education in the early 1960s, in the treaties that formed the International Bill of Human Rights in the 1970s, in the World Declaration for All adopted at the World Conference on Education for all in Jontien, Thailand, 1990. The principle is deeply entrenched in the Millennium Development Goals and the Dakar Framework for Action in 2000 (UNESCO, 2003).
In Nigeria, the concept of equality is given further impetus in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, which, holds that the State's social order is founded on the ideals, equality, liberty and justice. The legal basis for equal and adequate educational opportunities is stipulated in Section 18 of the 1999 constitution, which states “Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all level…” it is on this basis that the National Policy on Education (2004) has as one of its cardinal goals and objectives “the building of just and egalitarian society'. Against the background of the presumption of achieving equality with other stated goals through it, much importance is seemingly attached to education and issues related to its distribution. The degree of this importance apparently underlies one of the stated goals of government to: direct its objectives towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.
It is in apparent quest for equality through education that Nigeria launched the Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1976 and the Universal Basic Education (UBE) in 1999. The takeover of some private and voluntary agencies' primary and secondary schools by most state governments in the country is another step at equalization and massificationof access to education. The major objective for the establishment of unity schools was to foster unity among the various people and to ensure equitable distribution places in secondary schools. In the pursuit of an egalitarian society, there is national intention to provide equal and adequate educational opportunities for all Nigerians. However since concept of equality is abstract individuals and government alike are ambivalent as to how to determine the degree of fairness and equality that should be inherent in the educational system to ensure optimal benefit of the recipients. In pragmatic terms translating the concept of equality of educational opportunities in the Nigeria poses inherent difficulties as it is in all transitional societies that are either democratizing or bourgeoisifying.
The foregoing policy statements and arguments generated in the pursuit of equality of educational opportunity invariably prompt five basic questions: what are equal and adequate educational opportunities? Is it for the same access, process, means and outcome of schooling for every Nigerian? Will this be to the advantage of every Nigerian in terms of his needs, interest and capability? Do we have the resources as a country to ensure that every Nigerian receives equal and adequate educational opportunity? What criteria should be used to achieve this?
John Rawls' Justice as Fairness and Equal Educational Opportunity
There are many philosophical principles of equality and justice based on different criteria. In recent times, John Rawls has advanced a theory of social justice and equality based on the criteria of fairness. Fairness, according to Rawls is obtained when the rule (procedure) and effects (outcome) of social distributions favour in advantaged and least-advantaged members of any groups. This is to achieve higher efficiency and welfare in society. The ultimate objective is to entrench the principle of egalitarianism as a sine qua non for ensuring that a just society is built, where everyone can actualize latent potentials and capabilities.
Equal Educational Opportunity: Basic Issues
Equal educational opportunity is one of the most hotly debated issues in contemporary times, as philosophers have often advanced controversial arguments. Halsey (1975) gives a comprehensive view of this when it is noted that:
Controversy goes on at three relatable but not necessarily related levels. First there is a clash of priorities between different values presumed realizable. Secondly, there is the philosophically difficult intellectuals ask of clarifying the language of debate, and thirdly, there is the tedious labour of relating theoretical constructions to the changing realities of the empirical world.
Kang (1983) carried out the Equal educational opportunity between 1918 and 1939 in Britain. Initially, equal educational opportunity meant the demand for more places and relevantly needed type of learning for: male, female; normal, subnormal; urban, rural etc. However, politicians saw equal interpretations based on political persuasion. The British Labour Party saw it as equal and free access to any type of school of one's choice. On the other hand, the members of the British Conservative Party held it as restricted and competitive entry to secondary schools – the 'Public' schools especially. Whereas some argue that equality should be explained to mean equal financial grants to both public and private schools by the government other extended the meaning to embrace equal employment prospects for all school leavers.
Amidst this philosophical ambiguity, Warnock (1975) holds that the orientation of the concept and inherent issues emanate from the moral problem of equality and justice, which are two inextricably related notions dealing with rules and amount of sharing. For this reason the writer draws attention on two possible ways of looking at equal educational opportunity, namely:
· An equal right to education; and
· Rights to an equal education.
For Hare, it is a problem of how to translate the assumed natural right to people to legal rights of learning. This is because as noted:
The failure to distinguish between moral and legal rights is one of the sources of the doctrine of natural law and natural rights which are a kind of slurry of legal and moral rights all mixed up.
However, Crittenden (1977) that the problem emanates from the inability of people to distinguish clearly between equality as a descriptive concept, and as a social ideal of distributive justice and equality whenever they discuss equal educational opportunity. For this reasons the writer throws light on:
i) The proper place of equality as a concept in education;
ii) The meaning, distributions, and limitations of the liberals' conception of equality of opportunity, and egalitarian's equality of outcome-social ideals of equality and justice assumptions on equal educational opportunity; and
iii) An equal right to education with respect to curricula and pedagogical practices.
Coleman's (1975) of the problem is on the limitations of equal input of school learning as a viable definition of the concept. This is in addition to the role and limitations of the formal school in offering all educands equal educational opportunity in practice.
In Ennis' (1978) problem as not in the concept of equality but rather in our conceptions of education and having an opportunity. This is because, determination of these concepts require the making of value judgments. Explaining further, attention is called on the following;
a) There is equality between individual persons and groups of persons. This must be specified.
b) There are different types of learning and educational goals ranging from the academic to occupational.
c) There are different personal genetic and environmental factors which enhance or deter (causing inequality) in learning. There must be considered in any attempt to assess or provide equal educational opportunity to all learners.
Echoing some of the above mentioned views, Bowman holds that the problem is because, many empirical studies and governments' education and economic policies are not able to measure effectively, equality and inequalities in learning opportunities. In the light of this, the writer throws light on how to assess inequalities in learning opportunities from the economic perspective. This as should put the following factors into consideration:
i) Personal genetic ability, interest and choice of learners;
ii) External factors of time, effort, financial costs; and
iii) The social ideology of the group concerned with respect to the distribution of economic and learning opportunities.
For Cooper (1980) excellence in learning through competition implicit in Britain's Public Schools' Goals, not equality of educational opportunity should be pursued in educational practice. This is because; the absence of competition in learning could lead to a fall in the standard of educational excellence.
The proceedings indicate that in spite of its popularity; equal educational lacks a concise definition of general acceptance. This problem may not be unconnected with the fundamental problem of defining knowledge – the ultimate end of education. Peters for instance defines from the perspective of the educated man as that who knows the 'that' and 'how' of thing. Langford (1972) stress on psychologism sees it as learning to be a person. However, the definitions raise the questions of: how do we know the educated man or person? This is considering that knowledge tends to manifest in different ways – cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of learning among different people. It is in reference to this problem that Adewole holding that Peter's notion of the educated man may be too sophisticated for Nigeria opines that the educated man should be contextually defined. However, the opinion seems to want to place a ceiling on the level of acquisition of knowledge. This problem of defining knowledge often raises question and arguments about what actually are educational opportunities. This is especially when we note that because of the many factors involved in the acquisition of knowledge, education as noted by Crittenden, in contrast to food and clothing is not a simple product that can be neatly packaged. Because of these observations, what should count as equality in educational opportunity often leads to many arguments. This has led to two major viewpoints of equality of educational opportunity in educational theory and practice. They are:
· The Equal Input of learning; and
· The Equal Output of learning.
The Equal Input of Learning: This view holds that equality of educational opportunity implies a situation where all recipients are allowed equal access to the same type and amount of learning factors such as: teachers, infrastructures, and other relevant learning aids on per pupil basis. The view however raises this question: Does equality of access to the same type and amount of learning offer a realistic sense of equality of opportunity to all learners?
A critical appraisal of this concept shows that equality of input offers only formal and legal opportunity to all learners. This is because some recipient especially the physically and those from low socio-economic status would not be favoured by it. From strictly viewpoint, the concept apart from being concerned with external resources of learning than with the individual learners has a meritocratic stress. This is because only the intellectually brighter learners and those from high socio-economic backgrounds could be more favourably disposed to utilize effectively the opportunity. For as noted, the slow learners often would need more time and resources to achieve their potentials in learning. In view of these, equality of input of learning even though it offers legal and constitutional right to learning for all persons does not in practice as noted by Merckle, offers a realistic sense of equality of educational opportunity to all learners.
The Equal Output of Learning: This view advocates that all educands should be offered equal legal and constitutional rights to learning. In addition, they should be offered same type and amount of learning resources, and be made to achieve equal result or outcome of learning. However, the viewpoint raises these crucial questions: Is equal outcome of learning possible among all persons and group of persons? Do they all desire such? Are they all capable of it? Assuming the view is to be given serious consideration, whose potential level of learning outcome should be the envisaged level of learning outcome? That of the least, average, or more capable learner? If that of the least capable learner, will this not imply causing handicap to the average and most capable learners who may want to exceed this level of outcome of learning? Conversely if that of the most capable learner is used, will this be fair to the average, and least capable learners who may not be able to attain this level of outcome? Is it desirable insisting that they attain it?
It is because of preceding questions that equality of outcome of learning as a definition of equality of outcome of educational opportunity attracts a lot of arguments.
For Warnock and Hare education is not a cake that is desirable to everybody. In effect, insisting that every person should have an equal share of it many produce undesirable effects on those learners who may not want such amount of learning.
For Coleman, equality of result is not possible given educands varied environmental backgrounds. For Crittenden, equality of outcome of learning is not attainable given educands varying abilities. In view of this, it also held that any attempt to achieve this in practice may entail the control of private family life factors such as: the number of children to have, and how to bring them up – most probably under strict governmental control. As the writer explains:
…an equal outcome could not be achieved without seriously promising principles of justice and freedom. In any scheme of this kind, there are also evident questions about who the social engineers are to be, how they gain access to their position what controls they are to.
In addition, the writer informs that equal outcome of learning underscores the need for diversity in society. As noted: apart from the totalitarian character of the political system, there would be a serious loss to the culture as a whole.
From a semantic point of view, Crittenden holds that equality of outcome appears to see learning as a product one hands out to passive recipients. Arguing the point, it is noted that:
In contrast to food and clothing wages and annual leave; and even aspects of health care, education is not a simple product that can be neatly packaged and distributed. As an achievement, it is a highly complex and intangible set of goods… never possessed once and for all, and it admits for an enormous range of possible level of attainments… education depends directly and finally on each individual's efforts at understanding and on the extent to which they are successfully.
From the foregoing, it is evident that because of the epistemic, moral, economic- environmental and psychological issues involved, equal input or output (result) or learning cannot be taken as a generally acceptable definition of equality of educational opportunity. What then is equal educational opportunity? How have researchers been assessing the issue generally?
Challenges of Realizing Equality of Educational Opportunities
In educational theory and practice, the issue of equality and justice presents some peculiar problems. First, education is seen as a concept as well as a process. This is as a result of the multiple factors and variables, involved in the acquisition of knowledge. Secondly, educational outcomes are difficult to measure. Thirdly, education is a social service that has a very complex clientele, which at the same time has input and output variables that tend towards quality. The system lacks adequate and diversified learning opportunities in terms of curricular provisions. This is in addition to that which holds that the teaching methods predominantly employed in schools are intellectually inclined to benefit all students especially those with practical orientation to learning.
Another huge challenge of providing equal educational opportunities for Nigerians is that there are several levels of educational disparities. There is disparity among States in terms of school attendance and enrolment ratios and the attitudes of government towards education hence some states are characterized as educational disadvantaged. Disparity also exists at the level of gender, normal and special education, urban and rural education. Other levels of disparity are public and private participation, Christian and Muslim education and socio-economic class disparities.
At the tertiary level most of the educational policies embarked upon by the federal government are in dissonance with the drive towards equalizing educational opportunities for all Nigerians. Ehiametalor (2005) posits that equality considerations seem to have guided the criteria for admission not Nigerian Universities, which is based on the following criteria:
· Merit 15%
· Environmental Considerations 50%
· Federal Character 35%
With respect to the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board Admissions, the following criteria have been popularized:
Merit:These are candidates with the required score for the course as stipulated by JAMB
Catchments Areas: This is a policy whereby candidates from the locale or environmental development in some states, a percentage of admissions are given to such states.
Disadvantaged States: Because of the comparatively low level of educational development in some states, a percentage of admissions are given to such states.
Discretion: This refers to the quota of admissions reserved or intended to be used as public relations. Friends of the university and other key stakeholders benefit from this.
The application of the aforementioned geographical considerations is an impediment to equalization of educations. While it is widely contended that the quota system is a viable formula for bridge the gap between the educationally backward and advanced areas of the country. Prominent reason often advanced in support of this view is that the policy could help generate and infuse a needed sense of unity in a country of diverse cultural and ethnic population.
John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism as a general theory of justice has two fundamental principles. The theory is concerned with the moral equality of persons, and treatment of individuals. In comparison to Mill's Utilitarianism, Brody notes that while Utilitarianism, aims at maximizing social goods at some persons' expense, the Rawlsian conceptualization of justice as fairness, aims at correcting this assumed anomaly. From the point of view of rules and outcome of distributive justice, and equality, Justice as fairness is perceive to lay emphasis on the equality of opportunity for all persons.
Brody is that justice as fairness is too forward looking. As argued by Barry:
…Principles of justice tells us to reward or punish people perhaps unequally in accordance with what they have done… justice is not (only) a forward looking virtue. It is determined by the past and present conditions, the character and conditions of the individual persons concerned.
On the whole, the Federal and State governments' input to education lack equitable distribution. The reasons often adduced for this particular claim is that certain persons and group of individuals do not seem to get a fair share for instance, argues that the educational provisions for the physically and mentally disabled people in the country are appreciably low. This view is also shared by Kosemani. Nnadi's and Akinpelu's contention are on the lack of adequate learning opportunities for the large number of non-literate adults in the country.
In addition are speculations on what should count as appropriate opportunities for learning. Some views stress the relevant opportunity factors for the acquisition of knowledge, for example books, teaching aids and personnel, infrastructural provisions, motivations etc; others harp on social and economic returns from learning – jobs and income attached to them. Because of these issues, what really is meant by educational opportunities and the appropriate rule and criteria for distributing them, lead to a variety of arguments.
Causing of Inequality of Opportunities in Learning
The deterrents of persons' educational aspirations and subsequently, inequality in learning opportunity could be due to lack of or insufficiency of:
i) Personal psychological factors such as genetic intelligence e.g. the mentally retarded learners; motivation, e.g. someone who lacks interest in a particular type of learning;
ii) Environmental opportunity factors of learning such as facilities e.g. school building, finance, books – common with economically disadvantaged learners, or legal barriers to learning facilities e.g. the barriers in racially segregated schools.
The above in formal schools as posited in the view of Crittenden Eysenk and Jensen is often expressed in the lack of, or insufficiency of:
i) Access to schools and schools facilities
ii) Appropriately needed curricula and teaching methods for every type of learners – male, female, normal, subnormal, intellectually and vocationally inclined educands.
The need for careful judgments and about opportunities and what causes inequality in learning opportunities is because, more factual information on the lack of identical type and amount of learning opportunity factors among persons not enough to conclude that they lack equality in learning opportunity. As succinctly noted by Bowman:
It is necessary to go behind the statistics to analyze constraints on, and options open to individuals variously situated from the start to ascertain the processes by which those options are exercised sequentially
The view is also reflected in Johnson's opinion that:
…ethnically motivated social concern about inequalities should properly focus on inequalities of opportunities and the knowledge and resources required to exploit them properly. It should not focus on the statistical facts of measured inequality which indiscriminately reflect both inequality of original opportunities and rational, voluntary choices among available opportunities intended to maximize individual self fulfillment.
How then should equality of opportunity in learning be ideally pursued? Of this there are various suggestions. For Coleman, it is that the term equal educational opportunity should be redefined as 'reduction of inequality in schooling.
…it implies that public schooling is to reduce the handicap the children face as a function of their environments without committing the educational system of an unachievable end. (Coleman, 1975:75).
But achieving the above as also noted by the writer, will depend on what schools are offered by the community that sponsors them. As pointed out:
The school can never go beyond joint responsibility with the child and his family for his learning. Ennis holds that it requires identifying the actual facilitators or deterrents of people to learning for effective help to them. As he further suggests, emphases should be placed on those opportunity factors of learning which do not interfere with personal psychological factors of learners' e.g. genetic breeding, control of family life factors. Rather, efforts should be aimed at the following:
1. Allowing the people the freedom of choice to pick up motivation for learning whenever they wish to.
Identifying and providing relevant environmental opportunity factors that could help make a difference. These should be in the form of: small classes, special attention, and scholarship grants to needy learners.
There are very few empirical studies on the issue of equality and inequality of educational opportunities. In 1964, James Coleman and a term of researchers were given the task of assessing the lack of equality of educational opportunities among racial and other groups in the United States of America by the United States' Government. The problem encountered in the planning stage of the survey was that no single concept of educational opportunity existed. In view of this, five definitions of equality of educational opportunity were formulated to guide the study. The first three were concerned with input into the schools and were defined in terms of:
a) Differences in global input characteristics such as per pupil expenditure, physical facilities and library resources.
b) The social and racial composition of the school.
c) Intangible characteristics of the school such as teachers' expectation of students, teacher morale, and the level of interest of the student body in learning. The fourth and fifth definitions were concerned with the effects of schooling and these were defined in terms of:
d) Equality of result given the same individual input.
e) Equality of result given different individual inputs.
The emphasis of the study was placed on the fourth definition – Equality of result given the same individual input. This is because according to Coleman:
Such a decision meant that the effects of various input upon students would be assessed. From the assessments, measures of a schools quality could then be determine as a function of the school's effect on its students. Once the measure was established, the survey would then measure the exposure of different social and racial groups to schools of low and high quality.
The need to focus attention on the input and results of learning in the study was to access properly the effects of materials and processes on learning. As explained by Coleman, equality of school input is inattentive to the effects of education – the whole purpose of public schooling. Besides, equality of input as defined by the Supreme Court and Constitution of the United States of America refers to purely formal-legal opportunity to learning. Equality of educational opportunity should be:
On a critical appraisal of Coleman's study, Ennis is of the view that Coleman betrayed a value preference for an academic type of learning in his conception of education. This is adducible from Coleman's view that: reading, writing, calculations, analysis of information etc are the basic requirements of learning in a modern society. Secondly, the view of the many goals of education and learning. In addition, Coleman's conception of 'opportunity' in equality of result given the same background and ability seems to ignore the fact that a person's background could be his facilitating as well as his deterring opportunity factor to learning.
In his study, kang surveys the different definitions given by various people to the concept equal educational opportunity in Britain between 1918 and 1939. It is noted that the concept started as the demand for more places in primary and secondary schools for learners. Gradually, it raised the demand for equality to access to the same or different types of curricula and teaching methods for all categories of learners – males, female, normal, subnormal, etc. this is in addition to some crucial educational issues and demands raised by educationists, politicians and educational reformers. They included questions on:
i) Whether the minimum school leaving age in Britain then at 11+ should be raised or not; and
ii) What should constitute the curricula content for each level of schooling in the entire educational system of Britain?
What can be adduced from Kang's study is that the varied demand for equal educational opportunity and some of the policy and practical measures in their response had far reaching effects on Britain's educational system of equality of educational opportunity to all learners. This is because, the educational system as earlier noted in Coleman's study offers mostly constitutional and legal – formalist type of opportunity to all learners.
There are very few and sketchy studies on the equality, and lack of equality of educational opportunity in Nigeria. Obi noted that the stress on intellectual knowledge and the methods of instruction in the primary and secondary schools in Nigeria are not favourable to educands with practical orientation to learning. In spite of these governmental allocations to education and its cost of distribution, it is apparent that certain persons and areas in the country are not favoured in the distribution of learning opportunities. Lar points out the peculiar problem of the normadic Fulanis whose occupational lifestyle does not pre-dispose them favourably to the prevalent formal system of learning in Nigeria. This problem is akin to that faced by some rural formal learning.
Kosemani holds that although private, alongside public schools encourage freedom of choice for all learners, it is against the ideal of the UPE that all children should attended the same type of primary schools. This is because most private and some government parastatal's primary schools tend to be better funded and staffed than most of the state run schools. These observations by Kosemani can also be inferred from the orientation of the Federal Government Colleges, Universities' Demonstration and Staff Schools etc. These schools often are better funded and staffed than state public schools. In addition, the schools charge tuition, and where applicable, boarding fees that are sometimes beyond the ability of some learners' parents. Invariably these schools appear to be run basically for the benefits of educands of high income parents. With this, it doubtful if the opportunities for secondary education as stipulated by the National Policy on Education is being met in practice.
The apparent lack of practical attention in spite of policy's provision on the education of the physically and mentally handicapped learners is pointed out by Awanbor and Abang. They observe that the little attention so far on this aspect of Nigeria's education has come predominantly from benevolent individuals and charitable organizations than from government. The implication of this with respect to the equality of educational opportunity according to Kosemani, is that the large number of physically handicapped persons in some parts of the country may be condemned to a life of perpetual illiteracy.
Akinpelu, points out the lack of adequate attention on adult learning programmes in Nigeria. This is in spite of the large number of adult non-literate citizens in Nigeria noted by Nnadi. Nwabueze and Mbaekwe hold that the state as the unit f application defeats the objective of the quota system in Nigeria. This is because the tribe, not the state is the basic unit of Nigeria. Moreover, that the problem of educational inequality which the quota system also intends to tackle exist at, the village, not only at the States' level. From these observations, it is very likely that the application of the quota system in Federal Government Colleges and Universities' admission policies may have been unconsciously or otherwise, been only in favour of certain individuals and groups of persons.
The available literature and the proceedings indicate that there are apparently very few detailed studies into equality and inequality of educational opportunity. Coleman's study – the most apparent comprehensive empirical study – on the issue, as pointed out by Ennis appears unable to measure adequately, equality and inequality of educational opportunities. This raises the crucial questions: what are opportunities in learning? How equality and inequality of learning opportunities should be assessed.
Assessing Opportunity, Equality and Inequalities of Learning Opportunities
Basically, educational factors are located in the personal psychological and environmental opportunity factors of persons. They include: genetic intelligence (abilities) motivation, decisions, ideas, beliefs, goals, learning facilities etc. opportunity factors of learning may vary from individual. This incidentally raises questions on how to assess equality and inequality of opportunity of learning. Informing on this, Ennis holds that it requires a knowledge and understanding of the positive and negative senses of opportunities in learning. That is, what exactly are the facilitators or deterrents of persons in learning? Facilitators seen from the positive sense of an opportunity are those factors whose presence in the absence of negative factors enhances one's goals in learning. These could be personal psychological opportunity factors such as genetic intelligence, or environmental opportunity factors such as finance or school building etc.
Deterrents on the other hand seen from the negative sense of an opportunity are those factors whose presence in the absence of positive factors tends to hold back persons' educational goals. They could for example be lack of genetic intelligence, study space etc. Assessing the facilitators or deterrents of opportunities in learning, requires careful judgments. As further explained by Ennis, it entails the followings: First is locating he appropriate facilitating or deterring factors of the factors concerned with respect to learning. The second is to know whether the elimination or provision of the factors concerned would make any difference. In doing this, Ennis calls attention on the need to be conscious of the varying aims and concepts of education. This is to enable us know the appropriate measures to take in providing the relevant factors of learning lacked by the person concerned.
In a similar vein, Bowman urges that evaluation of equality and inequalities of learning opportunities should focus on genetic, environmental (jobs and careers), ascriptive (sex, race and ethnic) factors of person to ascertain how they enhance or impede their organizational goals.
Ennis is also quick to point out the moral problems raised by the above suggestions. They centre on the issues of:
i) Taxing the financially rich citizens with fewer children to provide for the educational needs of the financially poor citizens with more children.
ii) The plausible advantage of the suggestions in comparison to genetic breeding and interference with private family life.
In Bowman's opinion, efforts at equality of educational opportunity should endeavour to:
i) Analyze properly and understand the various definitions of education held in the social sciences.
ii) Diversity careers and learning resources in society; and
iii) Make the equalization of educational opportunity a continuous affair.
For Crittenden, it requires that those who experience learning difficulties should receive relatively more financial and pedagogical assiatance than others. This as the writer points out is premised on the assumption that:#
Not everyone needs the same pedagogic and other help to realize his potential for education …but to provide the maximum help that is needed to help each individual (at the end of formal schooling) to reach the highest level of educational attainment of which he is capable of.
The right implies that it is the central business of education as schooling to introduce each generation to high culture – curricula for universal schooling as a living tradition. It is stipulated that High culture curricula should be concerned with the standards of general human excellence in the moral, intellectual and aesthetic domains of knowledge. It should in addition, take account of the diversity, unequal treatment of individuals in the process of learning. It does not imply that everyone should have the same level or quality of liberal education. Neither does the right prescribe that no one should go beyond an adequate introduction to liberal education.
…the whole emphasis is on the responsibility of society to ensure that as far as possible, no one fails to gain the range and quality of education that befits the dignity of a human being.
Crittenden also points out that the achievement of the above in practice, will depend on the level of a society's resources and how much of this can be conveniently expended on educational provisions in comparison to other equally demanding social services.
In a closely related view, Jencks opines that: Nobody should be allowed to fall far below the norm of his community, since this could lead to serious social problems. For flow, we should aim for different levels of outcomes of learning. This is because strict equality of outcome is not a desirable social ideal worth pursuing in education. From a psychological point of view, it is Jensen's opinion that:
The real revolution in universal education will come about only when the reality of … human diversity coupled with society's will to serve all persons, becomes the basis of educational planning.
In a closely related view, Eysenk holds that: Conditions are optimized for each particular child, given his own particular personality pattern of ability, and general biological make-up.
From these suggestions, assessing inequality of educational opportunities requires careful judgement and effective solutions. However, some of the most plausible solutions to the lack of opportunites in learning for example compensatory scholarship, small attention classes etc. raise issues which bother on social sense of Equality and Justice. What is equality and Justice?
Equality of Persons: As an ideal Williams informs that the equality of persons rests more in moral philosophy which distinguishes between the facts and values. In western philosophy apparently, the most popular and secular – non-religions view of human equality in the 'Equality of Respect of Individuals'. This is adduced largely from Immanuel Kant's moral injunction to treat each human being as an equal moral agent. This acknowledges that all person are equal in the spite of their different biological attributes, and unequal natural endowments, social and economic statues. It is partly in reference to this moral view of persons that in Western democracy the one man one vote principle is a measure for equality before the law. Realizing equality of respects in practice revolves much on “questions of psychology and anthropology rather than on philosophy.
Equality and Distributive Justice: As pointed out by Brody, equality and Justice revolves round the fundamental problem of choosing criteria – rules and outcome of treating persons comparatively. Assessing it, Bedau holds that the abstractness of Justice is a major obstacle in attaining it properly. The underlying moral reason of justice and equality as posited in the views of Brody and Bedau is to give individuals due share in any treatment-distribution.
Although interrelated, justice and equality arise only in cases of proportionate justice i.e. the comparative treatment of individuals. There are also cases of non-comparative justice. These for example include: when someone destroys another's property and refuses to make amendment for the damage; or not giving someone the agreed-upon wage for a job done.
Comparative justice does not always imply equal or identical treatment of individuals. This is because many factors may have given rise to the treatment concerned. These are such factors as: the origin of the treatment, the number of people to be treated, and their likely contribution or need with respect to the treatment, the volume of the treatment etc. these points, is noted as, what often make the demand for absolute equality of treatment of all persons by some people to appear as absurd. For as pointed out, there are just inequalities. It is what should count as 'just' and 'unjust' inequalities in every situation that are often the basic crux of comparative justice. This is because any inequality of treatment must be justified. It is the attempts at justifying inequality of treatment that underlie the different theories of distributive justice and equality.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The central Rawl's justice and fairness' principles can help improve upon the curricula and pedagogical practices of schools in the United States of America. This according to Merckle would imply:
· More attention on the education of the naturally and economically handicapped learners;
· Greater emphases on liberal (well-rounded) than vocational learning;
· Making the provision of education in any society a predominantly public obligation to citizens;
· A reorganization, and possible extension of public schooling to include nursery (and even pre-nursery) and adult learning; and
· Making the school curriculum and teaching methods reflect the need, interest and abilities of all learners.
· Public enlightenment through free, compulsory and universal education.
· Decentralization of educational funding and management.
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