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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Equity and Education: An Exploration of International Policymaking


Although many countries with high levels of economic inequality have used policymaking to pursue equity in education, inequities continue to exist. Such policies often perpetuate inequities by providing benefits to the most socioeconomically advantaged students and families, rather than groups historically disadvantaged or excluded from educational systems, due to race and/or socioeconomic status. I have investigated policymaking for equity in education by addressing three primary research questions. First, how has international policymaking for equity in education been pursued within localized contexts and global education trends in the United States, Brazil, and Chile? Second, within that context, what factors explain the failure of outcomes-based education curriculum reform in post-apartheid South Africa to result in holistic equity? Third, what are the commonalities that underpin the failures of these nations to achieve holistic equity? I found that the localized policy mechanisms used to pursue equity in education in the U.S., Brazil, and Chile have been in alignment with neoliberal global education trends such as increased privatization, school fees, and decentralization. I additionally found that the key factors that explain the failure of post-apartheid curriculum reform in South Africa to result in holistic equity are a complex policy subsystem, the formulation and implementation of symbolic policy, and the failure to properly evaluate substantive and procedural constraints. Furthermore, I have found the commonalities between researched nations to be high levels of economic inequality and poverty, de facto forms of segregation, and a failure to meet the holistic equity standard of equal education opportunity.

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