The phrase "equality
of educational opportunity" is problematic to deal with. It is an evasive phrase that needs lots of analyses and such analyses may be confusing. The problem with the definition of" educational opportunity" is two-fold-practical, how to achieve equal opportunities and conceptual- the concept of the phrase "equal educational opportunities".

In this site, we shall confine ourselves to three possible interpretation of the notion of equality of opportunity in education. Moreover, some possible factors that may impede the realization of equal opportunity in education would be discussed.

Interpretations of the Phrase "Equality of Educational  Opportunity"

The first interpretation presupposes that each individual should receive an equal share of educational resources irrespective of potential ability.

The second interpretation is to treat all those children of the same measured ability in the same way irrespective of environmental factors.

The third interpretation focuses on positive discrimination in favour of educationally underprivileged children, with the sole aim, to remedy the educational lag of disadvantaged children.

A learner should note that the three interpretations could easily be debunked. The first interpretation would ensure unequal outcome because individuals vary in their genetic ability. The second interpretation is faced by or is in conflict with social justice theory. Finally, discrimination assumed in the third interpretation is also unfair and unjust. We can summarise these interpretation with Akinpelu's (1984) own words, "What I suspect is that while each proponent of equal education opportunity thinks and believes that he is defending a concept, he is in actual fact defending a conception, that is his own conception".

Factors Responsible for Inequality of Educational Opportunity

Among the numerous factors responsible for inequality of educational opportunity are: family background, poor or rich, educated or otherwise, underaged children, intellectual ability, poor health and unfavourable environment. Discussions on these factors would be very brief as the learner should also think of other factors including those peculiar to his/her environment.

Nigerian educated parents know too well the value attached to education and would also like their children to benefit from it. They can provide both moral and financial support in order to ensure that their children  attain higher qualifications. They send their children to better or good schools with well-built structures with proper ventilation, qualified teachers, equipped library, etc. At home, some of the children have their own personal libraries, etc. On the other hand, the children of the poor and agrarian family do not enjoy such things. Is it possible for the children of the poor ones to go at the same pace with the children from educated parents?

Underage children: Parents unknowingly send their children to school at an early age. This may cause a devastating effect to the child's brain. Once damage is done to the brain, the child may not keep up the pace with other children in later years.

Moreover, children in the rural areas are more likely exposed to various domestic works than attending school. When compared with children from cities, the children from rural areas are unlikely to perform well in academics. Environment plays a significant role in terms of a child's educational opportunity. Most schools in rural areas are behind in terms of facilities and qualified teachers.

The educational gap between northern and southern Nigeria is a trace of educational inequality. This inequality of educational opportunity started since the inception of western education. Statistical evidence has shown that the north was lagging behind other regions, particularly when pupil’s population was taken into account.

There has been a lot of efforts to bring to people compensatory education. The main aim is to remedy the l., educational gap of disadvantaged children and thereby narrow the achievement gap)

Efforts made to Bridge the Gap between Northern and Southern

Both state and the federal governments have developed strategies on how to achieve equal opportunity in education. Among the strategies are:

1. Bursaries and scholarships award. Students are enticed by bursaries and scholarship awards in order to cope well in their studies.

2. With the current UBE initiative, many citizens would benefit from the programme thus reducing in-equality of educational opportunity among citizens.

3. Many schools in the rural areas are now acquiring a new look. Some dilapidated structures were reactivated and many UBE  blocks were constructed.

4. The Federal government has also embarked on the establishment of “Almajari

Schools” with boarding facilities to care for the children of school age who roam the streets of cities in northern Nigeria.

5. The average age for primary one is fixed at six years, parents should observe the age limit.

Also read on:

<<Importance of Education>>


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