Professor Bernard Aigbokhan talks about equity versus equality and the implications for policy makers.
1. What do you think of the current concepts of equity and equality?
Of the two concepts I find equity more practical and implementable. It is more realistic because under equality you are suggesting that everybody will have exactly the same outcome, exactly the same value which is not the case in reality. With equity, however, you are saying that everybody should have fair and proportionate allocations based on their particularities and circumstances. To define equity is to provide the same, equal outcome. When you are talking about equity, all children can have a high level of education. You may not provide it in the same way, but when you evaluate it later, it is the same. That may mean that a child without a disability receives a $5 allocation for education and a disabled child would receive an $80 allocation, for example.
2. What do you think are the main causes of inequities?
It mainly depends on government policy. You may say it is more expensive to provide or implement policy and take care of everybody’s circumstances but you can do it on an average, on a comparative, basis and provide it that way—instead of saying one treatment covers all. For example, Governments tend to provide more facilities and services in urban areas than rural areas. As a result, children in urban areas often have access to higher quality services than children in rural areas. In terms of government policy, you will see that some people will be favored. Those people who benefit more also have higher quality services such as education, health and recreation. As a consequence, the people with less capability to capture the State’s service also receive less. People do not have an equal voice and equal access to resources. When it comes to capacity building or education for the general public, those benefits go to people who have more education because they will have more knowledge of what their rights are, and they are aware of this.
The second cause is somewhat global. Because of countries’ economic international relations, sometimes even well-meaning policies will be impinged by external circumstances. Take the case of the resources for a certain country as an example. If the commodity prices on the foreign market collapses, it will affect the ability to implement policy. The government won’t be able to do what they intended and it’s not totally the government’s fault, but it is partly. I think these are the key issues.
3. What are your key recommendations for policy makers to promote equity?
My focus is on education now. I find that privately provided education tends to have a higher quality result than publicly provided education. But private schools are more expensive to access and part of what we are talking about is the need for government to either subsidize private education so that low-income families can access it, or governments should upgrade publicly provided services to be comparable with private ones.
The second one is that privately provided education services are limited in rural areas. So the recommendation is that government should provide comparative quality services in rural areas because the private sphere is not going there.
4. What kind of research have you done to provide these recommendations?
I have analyzed enrollment, completion and dropout rates and grades of students in both, rural and urban areas. I found that higher grade results come out in people that go to privately provided secondary schools more so than public ones. I look at the enrollment rate, the completion rate and then the academic grades as comparable indicators between private and the public schools.
5. Do you have evidence in this area of good practices for policy?
One best practice is that of conditional cash/grant transfers. I have found that this works for low-income people in rural areas. When they have a conditional grant stipulating that they keep their children in school, positive results ensue.
6. What are good methodologies to capture and monitor equity in your area of research?
In monitoring you just have to carry out periodic evaluation. What happened before and what has happened since the program was implemented– before and after evaluation.
Interview conducted on 13 January 2014