Education > Education Policy and Politics

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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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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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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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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 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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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 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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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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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 chapter focuses on the dynamic but often conflicting global forces and local responses in the field of education reform. Global economic forces drove certain aspects of the case of Costa Rica. For instance, pressure from multinational corporations induced the Costa Rican government to change its national curriculum. These corporations needed more skilled labour to continue their operations in Costa Rica and called on the government to modernize its education system to meet the needs of capitalist development. In 2015 the Public Education Ministry (Ministerio de Educación Publica [MEP]) implemented education reforms containing a new curriculum to retain technology companies and satisfy capitalist development. With Costa Rica being a hybrid social-democratic, capitalist system, the MEP had to find a way to blend the concepts and practices that underlie the traditional Costa Rican vision with that of the foreign investors. This blending undermined the legitimacy of the reform effort and threatened to exacerbate gaps in student learning across the country. In response, the MEP turned to international guidelines for planetary citizenship to inform their inclusive education efforts and developed the Tecno@prender programme to ensure students in socioeconomically vulnerable zones had full access to technology.

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