One of the major questions facing us in education is why educational ‘failure’ and ‘success’ often appears to be differentiated along ethnic, gender, socio-economic and/or racial lines rather than what is commonly expected; outcomes being determined by individual effort, ability or motivation to learn. Indeed, we see these patterns of disparity repeated time and again from region to region and country to country. Despite many efforts being made internationally, very little change has taken place in these patterns of disparity over recent decades. Some gains have been seen in statistics around Indigenous students in New Zealand and Australia for example, but they are limited to small pockets of excellence. We can point to these gains and take pride in what we have achieved. However, what is really needed is education reform that affords all marginalised students the possibility of achieving at levels usually only seen by the children of the majority cultures.
In order to do so, our education systems need to become more culturally responsive to all students. One glaring example of this lack of responsiveness is seen in the large-scale movements of refugees into Europe in recent times. The increasing diversity within the student body in recipient societies has created concern and crises; whereas, if there had been more North-East teachers, these new students would have been welcomed without any dismay or concern. For North-East teachers are able to welcome diversity and build on all the different ways of knowing and understanding these learners bring with them in ways that promote learning and success for all.
For the wider societies, the impact of the patterns of educational disparity is seen later in life; disparities in employment, incarceration rates, health and illness risks, longevity, poverty and other social and economic indicators in societies. In this sense then, North-East teaching is not just about increasing equality through transforming classroom and leadership beliefs and practices, it is also about strengthening our democracies. Consigning large groups of people to ineffective participation in society is detrimental to us all.