Why BAME equity, not inclusion, must be schools' goal

Schools need to go further than just inclusion – BAME people must be an equal part of the system, says Dominique Dalais

Dominique Dalais

Tackling racism: Schools focusing on Black Lives Matter must look beyond mere inclusion, says this teacher

In a post on The Daily Show’s Instagram feed a few weeks ago, Trevor Noah and guest star Chris Rock were talking about the current situation in the US with regards to racial inequality and the Black Lives Matter protests.

A comparison was made between the 1960s, when black people were really only asking for small changes such as seats on buses and places in cafés, and 2020, when we are looking at a systemic change across countries and within the institutions.

This got me thinking about inclusion versus equity and how international schools can play their part in this push for system-level change that we have seen across the world this year.

Inclusion is no bad thing, of course, but we need to go further than just being included and instead be considered as an equal part of the system in which we work.

Black Lives Matter: tackling racism

This is where equity comes in. Equity isn’t just about giving people what they need, it is about changing the system that brought about inequity in the first place.

We need to give advantages to those who have been disadvantaged and give minority groups the opportunity to have an advantage and a platform in situations they never had before.

That is how we address the balance. That is how we strive toward equality where everyone really has an equal chance because the systems could become equal.

And when this opportunity comes we must take action in meaningful and impactful ways.

Taking action

In my school we have a diverse student population and a diverse teaching demographic, so these issues have come to the fore prominently this year.

This year, I have been instrumental in setting up a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council for the three ACS International schools.

This was something I initiated from the need for minority groups within the school to have a voice. Nothing like this had been done before and now was the time to start on the back of the Black Lives Matter movement and its growing momentum.

The school board and senior leadership teams are backing the council, and are involved and in support of what we are trying to do. We are establishing conversations and instigating interest among staff at the school.

This led to over 25 people not only expressing an interest but also sharing their thoughts and feelings with their ideas of possible changes and approaches that we could take.

We are at an early stage of the transformation that we are hoping will take place and we have begun to take action to make our communities more aware of some of the issues we have in our society and the school.

For example, we recently held a Wear Red Day in support of the Show Racism the Red Card campaign. All three campuses took part in one of the biggest cross campus events in recent history.

A colleague of mine brought up the idea and thought we could do this as a school. I then pushed the idea out to the other two schools, as I believed we should be doing this as a three-school initiative.

All the schools took part in the event by encouraging staff and students to wear red, putting on events such as football tournaments, creating videos and posters to raise awareness and hosting fundraising drives.

Not only are we having an impact in school but we are also making a difference in our community’s thoughts and feelings about racism.

This has been done, in part, by creating a stronger student council, who are taking action to support and raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement and locally owned black businesses.

This includes hosting a raffle in support of the Steven Lawrence charitable trust with the items for the charity purchased from locally owned black businesses and as a student council. We will also soon be wearing hoodies and T-shirts with a BLM design, as the student council body, to show support for the BLM movement.

Lastly, one of my educational goals is to diversify the curriculum by looking at more inclusive units that are being taught in the upper school.

I am aiming for the heads of department to audit their units by looking at how they are including cultural diversity and a range of people of colour who have systematically been excluded from curriculum content.

This change may take time to see through, but it’s a journey I am glad we have started and one that I would urge all schools, both international and state, to engage with meaningfully. After two initial meetings, we plan to have a whole council meeting in November to begin to put an action plan together.

We are determined to expose to our community the issues in our society, so they can think and act and we can bring true equality to our school and our community. 

Dominique Dalais is head of physical and health education, and racial equity facilitator at ACS Egham International School in Greater London

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