Education is envisioned as the torchbearer of society’s development by providing knowledge and skill to all youth, regardless of their gender, colour, background, economic and social status, and abilities. It empowers young minds and shapes their personalities, which shape the nation. The vision, however, is far from reality even in developed nations such as the UK, where the black students’ exclusion rate was as much as five times more than their white peers for the academic year 2018-19 (McIntyre, Parveen, and Thomas, 2021). The UK government is drafting a proposal that mandates mainstream schools to change their practices and make provisions to include children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) (Weale, 2022). However, the problem of inclusion does not end there, as it is not limited only to SEND children. Racial discrimination further widens the educational gap through social injustice. According to the famous rapper Akala, Britain has the most pernicious race system by European standards (2019). Inequalities in education stand at the crossroads of several roadways, including but not limited to: race and disabilities.

This paper is an intersectional study of existing literature on inequality in education from a racial and disability perspective. It is divided into two sections. The key and underlying terms are defined in the first section. I discuss how education, which should foster equality, is in fact the major cause for inequality. Then I mention the relationship between inclusive education and social justice. The paper debates whether education, in its present form, is furthering or curbing inequality for disabled and non-white groups. On review of the literature on educational inequality, it was found that the above-mentioned reasons for unequal education opportunities stemmed from a neoliberalism approach toward education. Neoliberalism is the deregulation of the education system to allow market forces to be the driving force. Therefore, the second section of the paper will reflect on neoliberalism in general and from the perspectives of the various stakeholders.

Section 1

Many people believe that education is a major driver of general societal, communal, and national growth (Sen 2000; Bowles & Gintis 1976). Equality is one of the key factors that influences the effectiveness of education systems. According to Bronfenbrenner (1973), equality refers to how widely education is distributed. Although Farrell (1999) mainly agrees with Bronfenbrenner’s definition, he also acknowledges that it could vary based on the perspectives of an individual, a subgroup, or an entire group. Large sums of public and corporate funding are committed to regional and national education initiatives throughout all education subsectors in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. However, attempts at development education have frequently failed and resulted in unanticipated consequences, such as the paradoxes of underdevelopment or de-development. Numerous inequalities are undoubtedly included in these consequences (Donald, Holsinger and James Jacob 2008). Researchers have found a number of elements that contribute to or maintain educational inequalities, including but not limited to disabilities (Carrier 1986; Peters 2003) and race or ethnicity (Ogbu 1988; Persell, Arum & Seufert 2004; Phalet, Deboosere & Bastiaenssen 2007). Unfairness and inequities in education are mostly a result of the expanding divides between dominant and minority racial and ethnic groups, which are still present today (Aguolu 1979; Frisbie & Parker 1977; Gibson 1997). Racial conflict is frequently rooted in politics, which have long histories of colonialism in poor nations and continue to resonate in the majority of modern nation states (Blanton, Mason & Athow 2001). Among the numerous education disparities related to race are the linguistic genocide, loss of indigenous cultures, restricted access to secondary and higher education, educational attainment, detribalization, and eventual assimilation into the dominant or hegemonic ethnic groups.

Disability, on the other hand, is a frequently overlooked and ignored element linked to educational inequality. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual impairments are all included under the umbrella concept of disability. The inequities relating to disabilities in education are all too frequently stigma and discrimination (Bagenstos 2000; Nsubuga & Jacob 2006).

Education: Does It Foster or Reduce Inequality

The exclusion rate in UK’s education system was already high but spiked up even more after the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Alliance for Inclusive Education, 29% of disabled students, in the UK, had lost the confidence to go back to school a year after the pandemic, with about half of them losing faith in their ability to communicate, be out and about, and interact with strangers. While there was an indication from the administration that “catch-up” programs would be rolled out, there was little action (Forward to Inclusion or ‘Back’ to Segregation: UK Government SEND Review for England, 2021). This fuels the already intense fire of exclusion based on disabilities and race that has been deep-rooted in the UK’s education system, and while agencies such as the IMF, World Bank, OECD, and UNESCO are trying to influence the educational policies, it will require a mammoth-sized effort to achieve full inclusion. 

The inequalities in the education system are based on race, background, gender, and disabilities. When students are segregated based on even a single criteria, abilities, English proficiency, or race, inequalities start to emerge. According to Reay, to overcome social injustice in education, the education system needs to provide equal opportunities, ignoring where the learners come from. Only then can a socially just education system be achieved (2012).

Inclusive Education and Social Justice

Inclusion is defined differently by various authors, but for this paper, the work of Lauchlan and Greig is considered, and two definitions of inclusion are identified. The first definition is of the “moderate” view, which implies that special schools be set up for SEND children, while the second definition is more “universal,” which suggests that special schools undermine inclusion and children with disabilities need to go to mainstream schools to be genuinely included (2015, p. 70).

Global agendas like Education for All (EFA) stand on the two columns of poverty and exclusion, and these columns need to be taken down one brick at a time. Only 1% to 2% of disabled receive a formal education in most Southern countries, while 70% of the world’s disabled are concentrated there. According to Peters there are four challenges evident when it comes to inclusion. The first is at the access level, where the disabled and the marginalized are given equal access (not special access) to education opportunities. It means equal access to health, transport, infrastructure, and grants. The second challenge is at the education level with equal learning opportunities for quality teachers, an on-par curriculum and special instructions to overcome their disability. The third challenge is at the achievement level, where teachers assist and nurture the SEND learners to produce outcomes that empower them to gain employment. It includes primary education, tertiary education, and vocational education. The final challenge is their ability to exploit their achievements using employment, community participation, social and economic equality, and life-long productivity. Policymakers need to overcome these challenges to close the education gap for the disabled and the marginalized race groups (2008, p. 150). 

The expanding definitions and use of “inclusive schooling” have been linked to the goal of social justice (Lunt and Norwich, 1999). However, Gewirtz (1998: 469) claims that there has been “very little explicit debate of what social justice means or ought to signify” in regard to education policy advances and evaluations to date. This is crucial to note since, according to Gallie (1956), social justice is a “basically contested notion” with a wide variety of connotations and supporting ideals (Troyna and Vincent, 1995).

More recently, the pursuit of social justice has been linked to policies aiming at reducing social exclusion and boosting social inclusion. Some supporters of inclusive education would even view the promotion of social justice as an educational, political, and moral obligation (see for example, Armstrong et al., 2000; Corbett and Slee, 2000). A burgeoning reform movement is advocating that education is “one of the key arenas for the promotion of social justice,” notwithstanding disagreement over the extent to which education can and/or should promote social justice and alleviate social inequities (Troyna and Vincent, 1995: 152). The creation of comprehensive education, mixed-ability teaching, accommodations for students with special needs, anti-racist and multicultural campaigns, and anti-sexist regulations have all been notable policies for advancing social justice principles in the UK (Troyna and Vincent, 1995).

Globalization And its Contribution to Education Inequality:

Globalization, in the context of this paper is the ease of movement of workforce, and their families, from their native countries to foreign countries for employment. It has resulted in high cross-border movement of the labour force, resulting in children from different language backgrounds being thrust into a completely new educational environment, where everything seems foreign. Further, students move to foreign countries for their higher education. In 2020-21, there were 605,130 international students in UK’s higher education system (International student recruitment data, 2022). In their paper, Lingard, Creagh, and Vass discuss the case of Australia, where about 15% of students are from an ESL background (2012, p. 319). The Australian administration shifted to a more evidence-based policy-making regime that involved rigorous data analysis and categorization of students based on their primary language. The Australian Bureau of Statistics categorized students into two broad sections; Language Backgrounds Other than English (LBOTE) or English as Second Language (ESL) and primary English speaking students. The problem with this classification is that students from diverse backgrounds are segregated into a single category of LBOTE or ESL, and a standard program is designed to meet their education needs. The LBOTE and ESL data is not subcategorized into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, international students, etc. Therefore, there are only two classes of students, one primary English speaker and the other the LBOTE students. Unfortunately, due to the lack of subcategorization, social and economic justice is grave maldistribution to the LBOTE student community (p. 320). Students experience education and achievement inequality due to a lack of language support. The Australian’s government’s efforts to use evidence-based data, to segregate students based on their varying English language proficiency, backfired and resulted in high level of social injustice due to misrecognition.

To further augment the problem, there is the concern of a lack of standardized definition of indigenous status, disability, gender, and LBOTE students. Since all ESL students are put into a single category, they face the challenge of overcoming indigenous knowledge and learning a new language. The inclusion policies created by the administration led to further exclusion of racialized minority communities due to language, cultural, and customs barriers. In the case of Australia, the various categories of indigenous groups were misrecognized, resulting in a standardized categorization (Lingard, Creagh, and Vass, 2012, p. 317). Therefore, when using evidence-based decision-making using data analysis, work must ensure that data is adequately categorized to provide accurate results. The first step in closing the educational divide is at the level of data collection and analysis.  

Deceitful Discrimination through IQ Tests

The segregation of black and white schools was abolished after the Brown v Board of Education ruling in 1954. This led to the construction of the category of “gifted” students whose aptitudes were measured using IQ tests. These IQ tests were manipulated to further ground discrimination, only now based on intelligence. The test were designed to favor whites and paint a moral degeneracy and low-intelligence picture of blacks and other ethnic minorities. It ensured that whiteness was safeguarded in the education through the “gifted” tag. The provisions for gifted students is a grey area in the U.S. education system, and state and local authorities have the autonomy to enact policy and provide funding to this sector as they deem fit. Due to this lack of regulation, wealthy white families were known to hire psychologists to help identify their children as gifted and get access to the benefits of such programs. The less privileged classes, despite being gifted, were left out of this school hoarding opportunities (Martschenko, 2021).

Biased Hiring of Coloured Teachers:

The level of white orientation is substantial in Britain’s teacher hiring system. The 2019 figures indicate that about 85.6% teachers in the UK were White-British, while the rest belonged to Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (Tereshchenko, Mills and Bradbury, 2020). Bariso suggests there were two primary reasons why the teaching profession is predominantly white in the country. The first is that non-white teachers opt out of the profession due to the negative attitudes by both students and peers. Students viewed black teachers to supplementary staff rather than teachers. Furthermore, the curriculum did not include minority perspectives and that restricted them from entering the profession. The second reason was attributed to external factors that created barriers to entry into the profession. Bariso indicates that Asian teachers had fewer obstacles than black teachers when trying to enter the profession in Britain. The hiring mechanism is riddled with structural inequalities that make entry very challenging (2001).

All of the above reasons for unequal educational opportunities in UK are the cause of the neoliberal educational policies in the country. Neoliberalism narrows the focus of parents, teachers, policymakers, and students to personal goals and achievements rather than the greater good. The following section defines neoliberalism and discusses how it fosters unequal education.

Section 2


Intersectionality is the concept that race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nation, ability, and age do not function as unitary, mutually exclusive entities but rather as mutually generating realities that produce complex social injustices. In modern academic labour, both more traditional academic work and multidisciplinary disciplines use different forms of intersectional study (Collins & Chepp 2013). Because it conceptualises race as situated within the reciprocal relationship between social structures and cultural representations, racial formation theory avoids conflating discourses about race (such as racial meanings, representations, and social identities) with the power relations in which racial meanings are situated. Although they are still related, both are kept apart. Racial formations, which have been historically established and are always evolving, organise racialized groups, the distinctive patterns of racial inequality that link racialized populations, and the social concerns that arise.

Race and Inclusive Education

The fact that there is compelling evidence of institutional racism, which is when an organization consistently fails to treat people fairly and professionally due to a their race, ethnicity, or culture (Macpherson Committee of Enquiry1990), operating in the provision of care to children with SEN in many western nations is one reason why it is vital to emphasise the factors of race and ethnicity on SEN.

Minority groups have historically been overrepresented in the special education sector in all countries that have integrated special education into their general education systems. Special education has occasionally been the sole choice for an important section of minorities and children from migrant families in terms of their educational options. In general, minority communities and parents have been quite concerned about this, frequently to the point of filing lawsuits. Those in charge of education have accepted or supported the condition, attributing it to regrettable minority shortcomings or abilities made worse by evaluation difficulties, as being natural or inevitable. Terman could therefore argue that special education was necessary for black, Spanish, Indian, and Mexican children in the United States since they had “racial dullness” and low IQs due to genetic factors (Terman 1916). Eysenck (1971, p. 142) said that because of “crimes done against their forefathers” in the United Kingdom, black Americans and Irish people are genetically less brilliant. Lynn developed a theory for the emergence of racial disparities in intellect in 1992 while working as a professor in Northern Ireland (Lynn 1992). Lynn also suggested that because black Africans in Africa scored worse on Western IQ tests, black minority groups in other countries could not claim that racial inferiority was the source of their academic problems. Racial and ethnic minority and immigrant groups have historically been overrepresented in special education and concentrated at the lower-achieving end of mainstream education in the United Kingdom, the United States, and other European countries. Just before they begin their academic careers, British children from colonial or former colonial nations are labelled as likely low achievers and disproportionately placed in special education (Coard 1970; Tomlinson 1981). Recent data suggest that some ethnic groups may be disproportionately represented in the records of particular SEN kinds that seem to rely on objective and non-judgmental criteria. For instance, in their English sample of students, Strand and Lindsay (2009) point out an elevated likelihood of hearing impairment among Pakistani and Bangladeshi students. Nevertheless, in many nations, certain ethnic groups are underrepresented in terms of specific categories of special needs. Asian students, for instance, had a lower likelihood of being diagnosed as having specific learning challenges in England (DfE 2013b; Lindsay et at. 2006). Although evidence of racial overrepresentation and overexclusion in the various forms of special education has been presented repeatedly over the years, national and local policy-makers have never been inclined to link special education policy to any policies that take racial and ethnic diversity into account. Troyna and Vincent (1996) observed the survival of “ideologies of expertism,” benevolent humanitarianism, and individualism in the Special Educational Needs (SEN) policymaking process in contrast to the aggressive collective voice in the formulation of antiracist laws. They also observed that white parents had just lately begun to raise concerns about how their kids were classified. While examining special schools in two LEAs, Daniels and his colleagues noted that “the practises of SEN seem to have been protected from the sight and voice of equal opportunity programmes” (Daniels et al. 1998). Boys, especially those of African and Caribbean descent, predominated in the study schools. They suggested that causation theories of human deficiencies might rule out the kinds of social explanations that support equal opportunity laws. The Labour administration developed a National Advisory Group on SEN, published two papers explaining policies, and produced an action plan in 1997 and 1998. (Department for Education and Employment DfEE 1997, 1998). The UK government was attempting to resolve the inconsistencies of an educational market that encouraged schools to exclude students who were difficult to teach and with the enormous cost of special education that resulted, especially as more and more parents were requesting resources for their children who had disabilities (Tomlinson 2001). Despite the fact that the policies were more clear and useful than earlier ones, the treatment of minority kids was not a policy topic.

Neoliberalism and Education Inequality

Education is a dynamic process influenced by society, culture, and the environment it is imparted in. For over two decades, the internet has reduced the physical boundaries and interconnected individuals globally. Education has also evolved to match the changing environment and is influenced by many factors outside the sector. The stakeholders in the current education system are from political and economic sectors rather than from an academic background. Education has been transactionalized due to the neoliberal policies adopted by various administrations. Neoliberalism is defined by free markets, deregulation, individualism, privatization, and market principles. Education became a part of the neoliberalist marketplace and traded like other goods or services. Neoliberalism has changed the thought processes of teachers and students, who are now focused on results rather than knowledge. The result is the loss of specialist programs and teachers for SEND groups. Universities function like corporates with competitive and economic goals (Reay, 2012). Another aspect of neoliberal policies was the rise of “gifted” education. Students with outstanding ability to learn and reason, or competence on one or more domains were considered gifted. This created a further divide between classes and is discussed below. The result of neoliberal policies is increasing student debt and the pressure to repay the debt. Students from low-income families are the ones who take up student loans, and if they underachieve in their education, they give up and fall into the debt trap. Discussed below are the views that neoliberal education policies foster. The impact of student debt is also discussed. Discrimination through IQ tests and student loan processes are discussed as they contribute to the furthering the gap.

Market and Education

By the 1990s, a competitive education market had established itself in the UK, offering schools even another justification to exclude children they deemed disruptive and to compete unrestrictedly to place highly in league tables of examination scores. Competition amongst schools has increased as a result of the yearly release of the raw scores from public examination results, and a financing scheme encourages them to register more pupils. Thanks to “option,” schools can now be more selective and choose their students. In the school marketplace, some students are viewed as “desirable customers,” while others are viewed as “troublesome customers.” It is not surprising that social class, race and ethnicity, special educational needs, and behavioural problems have developed into filters through which the desirability or undesirableness of particular students is understood. Above all else, teachers value students who demonstrate high levels of measurable ability, great motivation, and supportive parents (Ball et al. 1996). Schools use a number of strategies to pick the best pupils, discourage the worst, and expel the latter if they show troublesome tendencies. Schools have the authority to openly choose students by giving aptitude or ability exams, covertly choose students by speaking with parents, and dissuade parents by implying that their children would perform better in other schools. Students may be excluded from classes after enrolling if their behaviour is deemed to be disruptive or they have special educational requirements. The rise in exclusion rates and the rate of referral to EBD schools coincides with the marketization of education becoming more ubiquitous. In markets where desirable customers are desired, quicker means of eliminating the undesirables are needed. Ironically, market forces have caused pupils who had been rejected by some institutions to concentrate in other schools that will accept them. Instead of acknowledging this problem and providing additional support, they are likely to be singled out as failing schools in need of “special measures” (Department for Education DfE), 1992).


UK’s education system, like most other countries, is riddled with inconsistencies, challenges, and politics. Education should be the tool that unites all, but it is furthering the gap between the privileged and the marginalized. There has been much talk about reducing the gap in education, and governments have done their best to reduce it, but the education system in most countries is influenced by political, economic, and social agendas, and the fundamental mission of inclusion is lost in the web of compromises and concessions. Instead of reducing it, several factors seem to increase the divide based on race and disability. The discriminated hiring of black teachers in UK and the skewed enrolments in the “gifted” programs only fuel the problem further.

There is talk of inclusion, but they are simply words as the numbers speak differently. By adopting a two-track system and a moderate view of inclusion, the UK has successfully increased students’ marginalization based on gender, race, and inequality. One can take solace that the problem is not limited to Britain but persists globally, except in a few countries. Also, since children were out of school for almost a year, SEND children faced the challenge of going back to school. 

Children who are not stigmatized, harassed, or bullied become better learners. They are more conducive to the learning environment and perform to their best ability. The effective closing of the education gap requires all the stakeholders to contribute equally. Policymakers should stop the gap-talk and walk the tight rope of inclusion through equal opportunity. will be one united front rather than segregated by class, gender, or disability. 

A shift away from this neoliberal thought process is required to start filling the education gap. There is an urgent need to measure performance regarding contribution to society rather than test scores. Test scores should be only for the teacher to diagnose the level of students’ understanding to devise an appropriate learning plan. Students should be viewed for what they are, students. Where they come from is not their choice, but where they go should be their choice.


Akala, 2019. Chapter 3: Special needs. In: Akala, ed., Natives: race and class in the ruins of empire. London: Two Roads. 2021. Forward to Inclusion or ‘Back’ to Segregation: UK Government SEND Review for England. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2022].

Bariso, E., 2001. Code of Professional Practice at Stake? Race, Representation and Professionalism in British Education. Race Ethnicity and Education, 4(2), pp.167-184.

Donald B. Holsinger and W. James Jacob (2008) Inequality in Education : Comparative and International Perspectives. Hong Kong: Springer (CERC Studies in Comparative Education). Available at: (Accessed: 29 July 2022).

Lauchlan, F. and Greig, S., 2015. Educational inclusion in England: origins, perspectives and current directions. Support for Learning, 30(1), pp.69-82.

Lingard, B., Creagh, S. and Vass, G., 2012. Education policy as numbers: data categories and two Australian cases of misrecognition. Journal of Education Policy, 27(3), pp.315-333.

Martschenko, D., 2021. Normalizing race in (gifted) education: genomics and spaces of White exceptionalism. Critical Studies in Education, [online] pp.1-17. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2022].

McIntyre, N., Parveen, N. and Thomas, T., 2021. Exclusion rates five times higher for black Caribbean pupils in parts of England. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2022].

Peters, S., 2008. Inequality in Education for People with Disabilities. In: D. Holsinger and W. Jacob, ed., Inequality in Education, comparative and international perspectives. [online] Hong Kong: Springer, pp.149 – 171. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2022].

Reay, D., 2012. What would a socially just education system look like?: saving the minnows from the pike. Journal of Education Policy, 27(5), pp.587-599.

Tereshchenko, A., Mills, M. and Bradbury, A., 2020. Making progress? Employment and retention of BAME teachers in England. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 9 June 2022].

Universities UK. 2022. International student recruitment data. [online] Available at: <,the%20UK%20in%202020%2D21.> [Accessed 8 June 2022].

Weale, S., 2022. Government sets out plans to overhaul special educational needs system. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 May 2022].

Weston, P., 2019. Ethnic minority academics less likely to get funding than white researchers. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2022].


All papers are written by ENL (US, UK, AUSTRALIA) writers with vast experience in the field. We perform a quality assessment on all orders before submitting them.

Do you have an urgent order?  We have more than enough writers who will ensure that your order is delivered on time. 

We provide plagiarism reports for all our custom written papers. All papers are written from scratch.

24/7 Customer Support

Contact us anytime, any day, via any means if you need any help. You can use the Live Chat, email, or our provided phone number anytime.

We will not disclose the nature of our services or any information you provide to a third party.

Assignment Help Services
Money-Back Guarantee

Get your money back if your paper is not delivered on time or if your instructions are not followed.

We Guarantee the Best Grades
Assignment Help Services