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 ?
If we want to ensure equality of opportunity for all children, we have to set minimum standards that all schools have to achieve.
The Equality of Opportunity Project is carried out by a small team of university-based economists and social scientists.
Rawlsian equality of opportunity but less demanding in practice than
When it comes to dealing with inequality in economic outcomes, Americans apparently do not want government to get involved in readjusting the outcomes, but rather want it to renew its efforts in ensuring equality of opportunity. Which policies, in the perception of the public actually work to this end is the subject of the empirical investigation in chapter five.
This, the report says, contributes to equality of opportunity in education.
28-Dec.1 Gallup survey, show that while 46% of Americans believe it is extremely or very important that the federal government in Washington reduce the income and wealth gap between the rich and poor, 70% say it is important for the government to increase equality of opportunity, and 82% say it is important for the government to grow and expand the economy.
The amendments aim at facilitating the procedures of the employment offices in a way that enhances flexibility and speed in providing the public parties' needs of workforce according to the principles of efficiency and equality of opportunity among citizens.
At least, that's the hope behind the new Equality of Opportunity Media Library Web site (equality.
It aims for equality of opportunity for all pupils, regardless of race; gender; where they live; their levels of musical talent; parental income; whether they have special educational needs or disabilities; and whether they are looked after children.
"The decision violated principles of transparency, disclosure, and equality of opportunity for shareholders," the court decision said, referring to the regulator s approval.
The Pontiff said the effects of some legislation designed to give equality of opportunity had been to impose "unjust limitations" on the freedom of religious communities to act "in accordance with their beliefs".
The Pontiff said the effects of legislation designed to give equality of opportunity had been to impose "unjust limitations"on the freedom of religious communities to act "in accordance with their beliefs".

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