In a recent lecture for the WEA’s festival of diversity entitled ‘Dealing with diversity’, tutor Bea Groves-McDaniel discussed the difference between equality and equity. The cartoon clearly demonstrates the difference, and Bea is clear that WEA’s approach to teaching and learning is all about giving people an equal chance.

So what is the difference? In the cartoon in equality the people aiming to watch the game are given a crate each – exactly the same – to be able to see the game. Only the tall person gets a good view though. In equity, the people have enough crates to be able to all see well. If we want people to have equal opportunity, sometimes we need to support people more to have their chance.

Bea argues that the WEA, and its unique small group, highly responsive approach provides equality, and that the way the tutors work with learners in groups enables the learners to support each other. The WEA enables differentiation, for group benefit. Bea loves the collective intelligence of her tutor groups – each learner brings different experience and expertise, contributing, supporting and developing joint knowledge.

That kind of supportive differentiation, Bea feels is essential with society as it is. There’s such disadvantage, and diverse needs resulting from an unbalanced society.

When asked whether campaigns and protests result in some groups in society receiving more support than others, Bea offers a note of caution. She highlights the major demonstrations a month ago raising the plight of the Palestinians which received next to no attention, in comparison to the significant media attention given to transgender campaigning. There had been no organised campaign or protest, but the opinions of a few were considered controversial and there was significant media interest as a result. Bea argues that media opinion is what makes the biggest difference to which groups receive both interest and/or support.

But for the WEA, campaign and media influence isn’t necessary. Our learner-led approach to course-design means our tutors listen and respond to the interests and needs of their learners. Bea claims, “The tutor’s job is to try to keep up.”

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The image used in the header is the work of Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire.