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Getting to grips with equity and opportunity

Hargreaves encourages collaboration in interest of students

February 11, 2020 — 

Summarizing his insights on change in education, Andy Hargreaves offered three major pieces of advice.

First: Do not overreact.

Second: Hargreaves challenges the audience to question aspects of the report if they don’t like it.

“Is it addressing a legitimate concern that might be best answered in another way? And what is that other way?” he said.

Third: Hargreaves asked the educators how they might improve Manitoba education within the context of high poverty and increasing challenges.

“If you were going to do something different, and not only get more support for what you’re already doing, what would that different thing be? How would you articulate it? And what support would you need to do that?” Hargreaves said.

As a leading authority on educational administration, Hargreaves has worked with educators and politicians in some five regions through periods of system-wide educational reform, including Ontario and Nova Scotia, whose reviews were conducted by Avis Glaze, the lead consultant in Manitoba’s K-12 review. As part of the Joan Irvine Lecture Series, Hargreaves shared his insights and experiences during a lecture on Feb. 3 at the Faculty of Education.

In a wide-ranging presentation, Hargreaves touched on six major ideas.

First of all, he emphasized that poverty matters, citing the statistic that on average, 80 per cent of student achievement is explained by factors outside the school.

‘Poverty is real’

“Poverty is real. Economic inequalities are real. Teachers cannot change everything themselves, but we must do everything in our power in relation to that trend to move it up the margins wherever we can by a few percent,” Hargreaves said.

Secondly, Hargreaves talked about social mobility, defining the term as opportunities to move, preferably upwards in life—economically and occupationally in relation to one’s parents.

“Some people think that social mobility is an alternative to equity … social mobility is not an alternative to equity, it is the consequence of equity,” Hargreaves said, extending equity to inclusion in his third point.

“Equity is inclusion and inclusion is equity,” he said. “And that if you what to achieve in school, then you have to see yourself in the school … And in some profound and fundamental way.”

The fourth point Hargreaves made is that there is no achievement without well-being, and there is no well-being without achievement.

He described the challenge here being one of division—where education professionals concerned with well-being and those concerned with achievement rarely work together.

“We have to understand that you can’t feel well if you’re failing all of the time. And you can’t achieve if you’re not eating or sleeping, if you live in fear, if you don’t have anybody to care for you, if you have post-traumatic stress …” he said, adding this relates to the fifth point, which is that the answer to most problems is collaboration.

A powerful solution

For example, Hargreaves noted that a question facing Manitoba educators might be: How many districts will exist in the future. The answer should stem from an educational problem and not an economic issue, he said.

“A powerful solution is not to have districts be autonomous … But actually, to get them to work together, and not just to share ideas, but to be collectively responsible for each other’s equity,” Hargreaves said.

Finally, all high-performing education systems commit strong public investments into education, Hargreaves said, pointing to highly successful systems around the world, weighing their faults and benefits.

“Three things are really clear: One, is that strong public investments and public belief in education for almost everybody’s child,” Hargreaves said. “Second, a strong teaching profession is one that is well-paid, and has high status. And third is to find ways to get that teaching profession to work together collaboratively by providing the time and the supports like learning support teachers or mental health professionals within the school, so that the whole school can support the whole child.”

Watch the Hargreaves lecture:



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