What is diversity, equity, and inclusive education?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)  has become a common phrase in education and society. These three ways of thinking are interconnected and support each other in working towards a fair and just world for everyone. However, they are not interchangeable and we must constantly strive to ensure we are addressing all three in our thinking and actions. So what does each term mean? 

Diversity is a celebration of difference, or as I like to say variability. It is the varied range of learners in our classrooms in terms of race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, background and so much more. But it is also the variability within each of our individual learners, their holistic jagged profile, and valuing what they bring to the learning environment everyday. Acknowledging, respecting and celebrating this diversity leads to a conscious set of actions that invite everyone into a welcoming, safe, and joyful learning experience.

Equity is about fairness and justice. It is about acknowledging that we are everyone starts from a different place on the pathway and have different barriers placed in front of them. Equitable actions means removing these barriers and creating fair access, participation, support, and challenge based on variability. Quote UNEESCO define equity as “ensuring that there is a concern with fairness, such that the education of all learners is seen as being of equal importance” (UNESCO, 2017, p.8) 

Inclusion/Inclusive Education is defined in Irish education as A definition of inclusive education in the Irish education system the process of:

  • Addressing and responding to the diversity and needs of learners through enabling participation in learning, cultures and communities, and
  • Removing barriers to education through the accommodation and provision of appropriate structures and arrangements, to enable each learner to achieve the maximum benefit from his/her attendance at school (NCSE, 2010, p.39) 

The goal of inclusion is  to make everyone feel accepted and comfortable, ready to share their opinions and thoughts without hesitation. It is about creating an environment where everyone feels welcomed and valued as a contributing member of the community.