equality of opportunity

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equality of opportunity

the idea that all persons, regardless of class, age, race or gender, should have equal rights to compete for and attain sought-after positions in society. In the 20th century, the concept has played an important part in the search to achieve a more just, more equal and fair, distribution of society's wealth and benefits. It has been especially central in debates surrounding education.

In the 1944 Education Act in England and Wales, ‘equality of opportunity’ meant the right to equal access to a system of secondary education which enabled children to develop their natural abilities and talents, irrespective of class position. The 11+ examination was designed as an ‘objective’, and therefore fair, device to assess these abilities in order that children would be placed in the education best suited to their needs and aptitudes. Research conducted, in the late 1950s and after, in the UK and the US, suggested that such an outcome was not being obtained. This led to a re-evaluation of the definition of equality of opportunity Instead of an emphasis on ‘equality of access’ attention turned to the goal of achieving greater ‘equality of outcome’. The new task was to alter the pattern of educational provision to compensate for the existence of social disad vantages. During the late 1960s and early 1970s various educational policy reforms such as the wider introduction of COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATION (replacing selective schools in many areas), COMPENSATORY EDUCATION schemes, and ‘positive discrimination’ were introduced.

Both the sociological literature and wider public debate have focused on two major issues concerning equality of opportunity, in either its narrower or its wider sense:

  1. the extent to which it is socially desirable, feasible, realistic; and
  2. the extent to which particular educational innovations aimed at achieving increased equality of educational opportunity have been successful or unsuccessful. On the first count, some critics have argued that attempts to engineer equality of outcome conflict with individual freedom. Critics have also argued that educational chances have failed because differences in social background are too pronounced to be removed by educational reforms alone.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Therefore, the deprived groups experiencing discrimination have no Constitutional guarantee to enforce equal opportunity.
Until now, there has been little transparency about which employers comply with equal opportunity laws and therefore no accountability.
Khurshid said the government expects the Equal Opportunity Commission to "Seamlessly from the outstanding work and excellent work that it has done under the leadership of such outstanding people as Mohammed Shafi Qureshi."
And the president must use the bully pulpit, as he did so eloquently during the campaign, to explain to Americans why equal opportunity is crucial to our shared prosperity.
The primary goal of the symposium was to conduct professional development training for command-level EOAs, CMEOs and other leaders who address equal opportunity and diversity issues.
On a practical side, integrating equal opportunity into a member's everyday life, both at work and in personal relations, makes a lot of sense.
In 1999, the Center for Equal Opportunity sent Freedom of Information Act requests to several Illinois public universities to scrutinize their admissions procedures.
Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has declared that 'Black Lives, Government Lies' should be read by governments across the world.
"Introducing equal pay for assembly staff will cost money, but this investment is necessary if the assembly is to become a standard setting equal opportunity, equal pay employer, " Mrs Hart said.
COVENTRY'S two universities have been awarded almost pounds 100,000 to help companies deal more effectively with equal opportunity issues.
It also creates a state workforce diversity program and a task force for equal opportunity in employment.
For the past half-century, we've tried to promote equal opportunity, tap into the potential of all American children, and thereby raise the overall level of achievement, by pursuing a twin strategy of racial integration and compensatory educational spending.

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