Inequality in Education. It Matters.
by Beulah Amponsa
In secondary school, I never imagined that I would be at Oxford. Friends back home didn’t even imagine themselves going to university. However, as a child of Ghanaian immigrants I had one of two options: 1) go to University or, 2) go to university. That came with the African mentality that education would take you wherever you wanted in life. Although this was the case for me, I don’t think I even imagined anything else for myself. Oxford, however, was not an option. Not for me. I considered myself an overachiever in school but that changed when I started my A-levels. I realised that school wasn’t easy as I thought. Having teachers that were over stretched in a school that was understaffed wasn’t great. Sometimes we didn’t even have a teacher in class. However, God always remained faithful. Throughout my education I have always found that a lot of ‘my achievements’ were not obtained through my own strength but by God’s plan to lead me here.
I would never consider myself a typical Oxford student. I didn’t get the grades. I got in through LMH’s Foundation Year (the first of its kind in Oxbridge and very controversial). Now that I am here, I’ve realized that God has given me a heart for inequality in the education system. I care about the quality of education all over the world. It is important that children and young people worldwide get good quality education. In the UK we are lucky enough to have quality education. However, this quality is not the same across the country. By being placed here; I can do my part to initiate change. As students – especially at Oxford we hear a lot about the access problem. Statistics are released every year stating the percentages of students admitted into the university. They’re broken down by domicile, nation and region of the UK, disadvantage, school type, gender, ethnicity and disability. They don’t do very well to impress the public. The news and politicians like David Lammy go on about how the institution needs to change and I think that they’re right. Making this place more accessible doesn’t mean lowering the standards. I think I’m evidence of that. I don’t think my presence here has done anything of that kind. My issue with that kind of thinking is that people fail to realise that the issues with access and inequality in the education system is more nuanced than they think. It is influenced by other issues such as class and race and even these issues are complicated.
Academic institutions nationwide have identified that there is an access issue. Oxford is finally open to the idea of doing something more proactive to make it more accessible by introducing Foundation Oxford and Opportunity Oxford. I do think that these to schemes are the beginning of change especially in an institution as old as this one. These institutions are beginning to do their part, in solving the access problem. However, these initiatives are more of treatment than a cure for the problem. From their end they are doing what they can. Nevertheless, more needs to be done to provide better education at an earlier stage for children in primary school and secondary school so that initiatives like foundation years don’t need to be an option.
Now I’m not going to lie, looking for scriptures about education was a struggle. It was probably the thing that made me start and stop writing this post on multiple occasions. There aren’t any scriptures that talk about education specifically. However, the Bible does have more to say about inequality in related to wealth, race and creed. The Bible makes it clear in terms of these inequalities that we should care for those that are more vulnerable than us. We know that Jesus’ heart was for the vulnerable and for groups marginalized in society. He himself even became like us. Vulnerable. He wasn’t born into a rich family. He was a carpenter’s son. Yet, He became the greatest teacher. He sought out those that society hated and welcomed them as students. He allowed them to join His kingdom. In his vulnerability, He welcomed those more vulnerable than himself. Their background didn’t matter. What mattered was that they wanted to learn, and they wanted to know him more. Some of the brightest students can come the most marginalised and vulnerable parts of society and this shouldn’t be a reason why a place like this isn’t accessible to them.
The Bible commands Christians to care for the poor (Psalm 41:1) and to care for little children (Psalm 127:1-2). This applies to education. We are most vulnerable when we are children, and at such a young age we are exposed to the education system. The experiences we go through in school shape and mould us and influence the decisions that we make later in life. For me, the scripture that confirmed to me that God cares about young people and education is Mark 12:31. Most of us know it. Jesus says: “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” [ESV] As students we have all done so much to get to Oxford and we must have cared an awful lot if we were going to make it here. So, if we care about the quality of education that we receive it should be as important to care about the quality of education received by children and young people worldwide.
Beulah Amponsa is a first-year Psychology student at Lady Margaret Hall.
Opinions expressed are those of the author, not of Just Love Oxford. Just Love Oxford is not responsible for the content of external links.[image description (cover): Beulah is facing away from the camera, looking over the flowers.] [image description (inline): Beulah is standing in the LMH quad, with a flower meadow and building behind her.]