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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Gorard, S. (2012). Experiencing fairness at school an international study in five countries. International journal of educational research 53(3): 127-137.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This paper uses survey responses from around 13,000 grade 9 pupils in French-speaking Belgium, the Czech Republic, England, France and Italy to examine their experiences of fairness in schools. Can differences between countries, types of schools or interactions with teachers, influence what pupils regard as fair, either at school or more widely? Despite the somewhat different kinds of school systems and countries involved in this study, the views of pupils in each are largely the same on many issues. Pupils clearly distinguish between the universal aspects of fairness, such as respect for pupils by teachers, and the discriminatory ones, such as merited reward and punishment. In fact, in pupil accounts it is the teachers who tend to create unfair situations, for example by using discriminatory principles in domains more suited to universal ones. If accepted, this has implications for the preparation and development of all teachers. One major difference between countries is that pupils in the more comprehensive school system at age 14 of England are less tolerant of extra help being given to a struggling pupil. This may be because they are more likely to encounter diversity of talent and motivation than pupils in heavily selected and tracked systems elsewhere. England has a policy of including pupils with additional learning needs in mainstream schools, and pupils there are most in favour of pupils with difficulties being taught separately. These findings and others like them suggest that childrens’ growing sense of fairness could be influenced both by individual interaction with teachers and the nature of a school system.

School of Education