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  • Author or Editor: Olive Byrne x
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This chapter offers an overarching analysis of the relationship between class, race and culture and how these influences shape individual educational trajectories for the privileged in society, while consigning the working class and minority ethnic groups to a separate disadvantaged status in a system of targeted community schools that aspire to pursue a positive discrimination agenda in order to redress the consequences of social inequality.

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This chapter focuses on parental engagement with their children’s educational and career choices, and how attitudes to education within working-class communities appear to have changed over time.

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This chapter explores the meaning and role of public education and universities in civil society. Adult education and the importance of public libraries are a key focus. Widening participation is analysed in terms of both policy and practice with reference to student experiences.

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This chapter examines the moral principle of merit and its limitations. We argue that meritocracy has provided a metafiction for public policy based on a philosophy of equality of opportunity that does not withstand critical analysis. The chapter suggests alternatives such as equality of condition that are more likely to achieve social justice.

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In this chapter we analyse Traveller education experiences within a racist environment at school and in society. We demonstrate significant policy changes and highlight continuing challenges.

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This concluding chapter examines the challenges involved in deepening equality in the education system and society at large – globally and locally.

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Educational Stratification, Meritocracy and Widening Participation

Despite the high aspirations of young people from disadvantaged communities, they face barriers that are frustrating the realisation of their educational ambitions.

This book analyses the ‘left-behind’ phenomenon and shows how education has become the new divide in Western society. It explains how denied educational equality and frustrated opportunity are undermining social cohesion and what we can do about it. It challenges meritocratic thinking and the efficacy of widening participation as a policy for social inclusion.

Combining analysis of educational disadvantage at an international level and among Travelling communities with empirical data derived from fieldwork with parents, teachers and students in the European Union (Ireland), this book offers fresh thinking and new hope in relation to young people left behind in the opportunity structure.

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This chapter explores aspirations, barriers and facilitators in relation to disadvantaged students’ access to higher education. We ask whether an aspiration-achievement gap in student performance in the terminal examination system – ‘the Big Test’ – is an adequate explanation for the stark disparity in achievement between social classes and ethnic groups, or if this is due to a poverty trap.

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The introductory chapter explores the landscape of educational disadvantage. It contextualises the core conceptual issues in the book and provides an intellectual rationale and overview of the book. In this chapter the origins of Western society are explored through an analysis of the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. The seminal contribution of Pierre Bourdieu to understanding educational inequality in modern society is introduced.

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Increased migration over the last two decades has resulted in greater diversity within Irish society. There is much debate around multiculturalism, diversity and integration, and how this is best achieved. As microcosms of society, schools have also experienced substantial growth in diversity. Over 90 per cent of second-level schools in Ireland record migrant students on their roll, with between 2 and 9 per cent of the school populations being migrant students. Moreover, research indicates that not only do teachers often struggle with increased diversity in the classroom but racism and inclusion are also not adequately addressed through the curriculum. Although Ireland sometimes prides itself on being a friendly and welcoming nation, racism is noted as a persistent issue. This article explores the topic of racism with teenagers in an Irish school, using the social work Dialogue Approach. This co-created study examines how students and teachers conceptualise racism and its impact. It is argued that exploring attitudes and encouraging dialogue among young people about the impact of racism and exclusion is fundamental to social work values.

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