Equity and equality

From Ed•sy•clopedia

Defining terms

It is useful to distinguish between three distinct concepts related to equity.


Parity refers to the equalization of outcomes including access to school, attainment in school (years completed), and learning outcomes of school.

The use of the term parity has its origins in the 2003 Education for All Monitoring Report, which defines the term parity as the "equal partiicpation of both sexes in different levels of education."[1] The report emphasizes that parity is a quantitative concept and does

A 2018 Report from the REAL Centre on girls education [2] uses the term parity to refer to equalization of schooling access and attainment only, and used the term equality to refer to equalization of learning outcomes. However, more recent discussions with REAL Centre scholars they have use the term to refer to equalization of all outcomes including learning. This is what Caine Rolleston and Luis Crouch call equality in their insight note.[3] The use of the term parity in this way is based on the 2003 UNESCO Education for all Monitoring Report (pg 116). The report emphasizes that these metrics are quantitative, and traceable over time.


Universality refers to the universal literacy and numeracy goals, ie SDG 4.1.

The takeaway from several RISE papers (including Akmal and Pritchett 2018 on SES gaps in learning outcomes, Kaffenberger and Pritchett forthcoming on gender gaps in learning outcomes, and Crouch and Rolleston forthcoming on equity in general) all have conclusion along the following lines: "closing the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged won’t get us very far towards a universal numeracy and literacy goal". The term universality encapsulates this goal, and replaces the term "equity", Crouch and Rolleston use in their discussion, which they link to Sen’s idea of equality of opportunity and also to the SDG. We would like to preserve the conceptual outline provided in Crouch and Rolleston, but adopt a different term. The framework put forward by in the 2018 REAL Centre report does not have a term for this.


Equality refers to equality of opportunity and experience in the school system, equality of opportunities to apply skills in the job market after school, a society free of gender discrimination. This definition comes from both the both the REAL Centre report and UNESCO report, is a broad social goal, and realizing it involves transformation both in and beyond the education sector.

See also


  1. UNESCO. 2003. Gender and Education for All: the Leap to Equality. pg 116
  2. Gordon, R. Marston, L., Rose, P. and Zubairi, A. 2019. 12 Years of Quality Education for All Girls: A Commonwealth Perspective. REAL Centre. University of Cambridge. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.2542579
  3. Crouch, L. and Rolleston, C. 2017. Raising the Floor on Learning Levels: Equitable Improvement Starts with the Tail. RISE Insight. https://doi.org/10.35489/BSG-RISE-RI_2017/004.