Education Week 2018: Equity in Action
The Ontario Ministry of Education believes equity is an integral part of every student’s education, and a foundation for student achievement, and we wholeheartedly agree.
The key components of the Equity Action Plan as described on the Ministry of Education website include enhancing:
- School and Classroom Practices by ensuring that they reflect and respond to the diversity of all students and staff.
- Leadership, Governance and Human Resource Practices by ensuring that the diversity of the teachers, staff and school system leaders in Ontario schools reflect the diversity of their students, and that those education leaders are committed to equity for all learners and to upholding and promoting human rights.
- Data Collection, Integration and Reporting by collecting and analyzing demographic data to gain a clearer understanding of who Ontario’s students and staff are, which will enable our school and system leaders to more precisely address the barriers to student success through data-informed decision-making.
- Organizational Culture Change by applying an equity, inclusion and human rights perspective to the Ministry of Education’s internal organizational structures, policies, programs and practices. The Ministry of Education will become an example of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and demonstrate our commitment to upholding and promoting human rights.
On the second day of Education Week: Equity in Action (#EdWeekON2018), we would like to highlight one of the ways that the Avon Maitland District School Board is implementing cultural change to promote inclusion.
Accessibility through gender-neutral language
The AMDSB believes in a safe learning and working environment that upholds the dignity and worth of all students, staff and community. This is part of creating positive, inclusive learning environments, which is a goal of our Strategic Plan.
Understanding how systemic discrimination threatens fairness and morale in obvious and subtle ways is very important to the development of inclusive schools and workplaces. In the past, many common terms often excluded people in the margins. The Ontario Human Rights Code provides for equal rights and opportunities and freedom from discrimination for all persons. With that in mind, we should use race, gender and any other identity factors only when they are relevant; otherwise, they are not needed and may be offensive.
Gender-neutral language promotes inclusivity and safety. It is a way of speaking and writing that minimizes assumptions about gender or the categorization of people in roles being referenced. Inclusive language respects and promotes all people as valued members of society.
AMDSB has an Accessibility Working Group which has developed a series of posters to promote our beliefs and actions with respect to inclusion and equity. They express how we can all improve our schools and communities through awareness and sensitivity with respect to our use of language, our treatment of others, and more. The first poster presents common terms which include the word “man” and proposes some gender-inclusive alternatives:
Human, Human Beings, Men and Women
People, Humanity, the Human Race
Artificial, Constructed, Handmade
Workforce, Personnel, Human Resources
Man the Telephones
Attend to Phone Calls, Answer/Operate Phones
We believe that cultural change can and will happen, one person at a time, and we are committed to adapting our systems so that they are more accessible and inclusive for all of our students and staff.
- Change takes time
- Change can be awkward
- Change can be difficult
- Change is growth