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Equity in Education: Reflections and Lessons Learned

Does the world feel bigger or smaller? Technology and social media have made it easier for us to be in conversation with people all over the world, but the connections we make are often limited to our ideological rather than physical neighbors. At the same time the COVID-19 pandemic has made some of us hyper-local, with tiny physical networks paired with a retreat from digital space the only way to maintain our health. But technology and the pandemic also present opportunities to forge new connections, where people around the world can learn from each other in an effort to solve common problems.

We saw a small piece of this last week, when we hosted Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell and Dr. Nasreen Hadad Haj’Yahya from the Israel Democracy Institute for a conversation on Equity in Education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The education systems in Boston and Israel and very different, but in each place there are still gaps in resources, achievement, and equity that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Councilor Campbell and Dr. Hadad Haj’Yahya proved that we can share best practices even across oceans and when working to reform disparate systems.

Councilor Campbell and Dr. Hadad Hadj’Yahya discussed a few common challenges related to Equity in Education. One is addressing the digital divide and the unequal allocation of resources. In many cases, the government does not even know which students have which technical capacities and how that might affect their ability to participate successfully in remote learning. There are similar problems around gender equity and the different ways young men and women are treated in the classroom and school environment. Gender differences are particularly poignant for our panelists, as both women shared personal stories of how their time in school was different from that of their brothers, leading to varied outcomes later in life.

One of the most powerful moments for me was toward the end. Someone asked whether these two contexts—Boston and Israel—can really be compared. Both speakers assured us that even in their short interaction they had already learned so much from each other. Where there are common problems we can share best practices and work towards more equitable outcomes, but only if we have willing partners. I am thankful to Councilor Campbell and Dr. Hadad Haj’Yahya for their partnership, and to the Interagency Task Force for working with us to deliver this timely program. I am proud that we at Boston Partners for Peace can be the facilitator for these and similar conversations.

Please join us on Tuesday, February 23rd, for part two of our series; we will be discussing Equity in Local Government and the importance of representation with Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst, San Francisco Supervisor Myrna Melgar, and Haifa District Commissioner Fayez Hanna.


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