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Article

Winston C. Thompson

The concept of liberalism has a wide influence on contemporary work within the field of education. Given this breadth of effect, it is not surprising that liberalism can be invoked in the service of multiple ends—many of which appear to be at odds with one another. As such, this article will trace liberalism’s fundamental commitments of “equality” and “liberty” in education in order to provide a general shape to the arguments that animate its goals. Taken in tandem, these commitments provide access to the arguments that populate various forms of liberalism in education, such that their careful study enables educational researchers and practitioners to better position their understandings and analyses in a conceptual context.

Article

Martin Mwongela Kavua

Educational reforms have been made from time to time since independence in Kenya. These reforms have been effected through commissions of education in the context of the country. Among education commissions that have steered reforms in Kenya are the Kenya Education Commission, the National Commission on Education Objectives and Policy, the Presidential Working Party on the Second University, the Commission of Inquiry into the Educational System of Kenya, and the Taskforce on the Realignment of the Sector to the New System. The main challenges facing the education sector have been issues of access, equity, quality, relevance, availability of educational resources, and efficiency in managing them. Moreover, the education system has been blamed for some of the challenges in the education sector, necessitating system change from the 8+4+4 to the 2+6+3+3+3 system. Challenges facing education reforms include inconsistency in carrying out reforms fueled by lack of a guiding philosophical framework, a top-down decision-making process, limited backing for inclusive education in policy, and curriculum-based challenges. Going forward, a bottom-up approach to education reforms, an evidence-based decision-making for reforms in education, and an implementation of inclusive education may play a significant role in reforming the education system.

Article

Christopher Martin

One of the fundamental tasks of philosophy is the search for the just state, or “best regime.” Discerning the right, or most desirable, norms and principles of governance and the fair treatment of citizens extends back into antiquity. To ask “What is just?” is to make salient enduring questions about what people are owed as members of a political community, as well as the kind of political community that can ensure that people receive what they are owed. Answering the question, “what is just” also requires inquiry into the scope and substance of education within a just and fair society. This, because a just regime is not self-sufficient. It must be cultivated, developed, and preserved. Here we are concerned with the values and aims that a just society should strive to provide for citizens and how access to those values and aims should be justly structured. For example, what kind of educational provision should be allocated to all citizens as a matter or basic justice or fairness? How should limited educational goods and resources be allocated between different citizens? To what extent should education promote norms of conduct and points of view among members of a political community in order to promote greater justice and fairness between citizens, and what should these norms and points of view consist? However, in addition to the reasons why education can contribute to a just society, engaging in these questions also requires a careful consideration of the reasons why (or why not) people are owed an education. I am here suggesting that philosophers interested in education and justice must contend with what it is about education that might make it something that individuals rightly have a claim to as a matter of justice alongside a consideration of the ways in which the provision of education can promote a justice in a more widespread sense. The two are not one and the same. For example, imagine an indoctrinative education that ensured future citizens acted with flawless impartiality and fairness in all things resulting in a society of perfect equality. One might claim that, merits aside, such an education would unjustly deny individual citizens an education for critical thinking and independence. Consequently, inquiry into education and justice raises numerous philosophically complex questions arising from the interplay of general political principles and educational values including the nature and scope of educational rights, tensions between the cultivation of individuals and the development of communities, the attribution of differences in educational achievement to desert (or not), and the role and limits of educational allocation in supporting a more equal society, to name just a few.

Article

The Japanese education system was once recognized globally, at least until the end of the 1980s, as one that was both high in quality and highly egalitarian. This unique success was achieved in the process of Japan’s rapid modernization. How has this success achieved? How “unique” was the key issue of disparities? These are among the most crucial questions to comprehend regarding Japanese education. The double standard of equality emerging from Japan’s two stages (i.e., prewar and postwar) of modernization combined the postwar ideas of equality in education and the prewar legacy of school hierarchy, together producing an acute tension in education. This tension-laden equality succeeded to some extent in reducing and justifying disparities in education in Japan’s catch-up modernization process. Recent education reforms have purported to throw off the yoke of a system driven by a desire to catch up with advanced Western countries, which is hereafter called “the catch-up type of education.” However, these reforms have in fact only produced unintended results in terms of educational equality. Japanese experiences therefore show us both success and failure in education, but at the same time these experiences can also teach us the contradictory nature of the roles that education is expected to play.

Article

Parental involvement is frequently touted as a key part of any solution to the achievement gap in US schools. Yet the mainstream model of parental involvement has been challenged on the grounds that it neglects parents’ political agency, the cultural diversity of families, and the empirical evidence of limited efficacy. This article argues that to understand parental involvement’s promise and limitations, it is necessary to consider it in historical context. Accordingly, it traces the history of “parental involvement” as a policy goal through the past half century. It provides an account of the mainstream parental involvement research, as well as critiques. Ultimately, the article argues that parental involvement is neither boon nor bane. As an important aspect of the politics of public schooling, parental involvement has diverse effects, which can support or hinder equity and student success.

Article

Harald Thuen and Nina Volckmar

Comprehensive schooling has been a cornerstone in the development of the Norwegian welfare state since World War II. Over the years it has been extended, initially from 7 to 9 years and later to 10-year compulsory schooling, since the late 1990s including virtually all Norwegian children between the ages of 6 and 16. In education policy, the interests of the community versus the individual have played a key role, reflected in a line of conflict between the political left and right. During the first three to four decades after the war, through the Labor Party, the left wing was in power and developed education policy according to a social-democratic model. The ideal of equality and community in schools had precedence. The vision was to create a school for all that had a socially and culturally unifying effect on the nation and its people. Social background, gender, and geographical location should no longer create barriers between pupils. Ideally, school was to be understood as a “miniature democracy,” where pupils would be trained in solidarity and cooperation. Compulsory schooling was thus regarded as an instrument for social integration and for evening out social inequalities. But one challenge remained: How could a common school for all best take care of the individual needs of each pupil? The principle of individualized teaching within the framework of a common school was incorporated in the education policy of social democracy and was subjected to experimentation and research from an early stage. But with the political shift to the right toward the 2000s, a sharper polarization can be observed between the interests of the community versus the interests of the individual. The political right profiles education policy in opposition to the left-wing emphasis on the social purpose of the school system. In the early 21st century, the interests of knowledge, the classroom as a learning arena, and the performance of each pupil take precedence. Based on the model of New Public Management, a new organizational culture is taking shape in the school system. Where the political left formed its policy from the perspective of “equality” during the first postwar decades, the right is now forming it from the perspective of “freedom.” And this is taking place without significant opposition from the left. The terms “equality” and “equity” provide the framework for the analysis of the changing polarity between collective and individual considerations and between pupils’ freedom and social solidarity in postwar education.

Article

Marnina Gonick

The schooling of girls has, across different times and places, often been a matter of heated public debate. From the 1800s to the present, contentious issues such as the purpose of girls’ education, curriculum content, and the meanings given to girls’ bodies within educational sites have led to varying discussions, opinions, and policies. At the center of these debates are the questions of how gender is understood; how it is used in a given place and time in the division of labor, the economy, and the family; and how it is assumed that young girls and women should be instructed for eventually taking up the positions deemed appropriate for their time and place. It is impossible, however, to simply talk about girls’ schooling as if this refers to a singular group of people. Differences in class, race, ethnicity, region, citizenship, sexuality, and other characteristics shape both the contours of the debate and the experience of schooling. Thus, any discussion of the issue of gender, girls, and schooling needs to take an intersectional approach—one that takes into consideration the ways in which identity categories work together within and across differences to produce experience, identity, and meaning. Currently, the question of girls’ education finds its strongest articulation in relation to the Global South. International organizations and major corporations alike have used their platforms to advance the cause of educating girls in the interests of national and global development. This has proved to have consequences that do not always take into account the complexity of girls’ lives in their local contexts. Issues of gendered inequalities in the Global North are sometimes mistakenly assumed to have been resolved, things of the past. However, girls in schools continue to face issues such as sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and discrimination. As a result, their issues are often misunderstood or marginalized within school communities.

Article

The global expansion of higher education since the last quarter of the 20th century reflects political and socioeconomic developments, including opening up economic opportunities and addressing neoliberal agendas such as corporatization, digitization, individualization, and marketization. This process of the so-called massification of higher education has also been called academic capitalism, whereby business models predominate what was once considered a public good and a form of liberal arts education. These transformations have implications for questions of equal opportunity and social justice in regard to gender and sexuality linked to diversity, race, and social class, or intersectionality. Transformations include involvement and participation for students, academics, faculty, and researchers. From a feminist perspective, the various transformations have not increased equality or equity but have instead reinforced notions of male power, misogyny and patriarchy, and social class and privilege, despite the massive increase in involvement of women as students and academics through policies of widening access or participation. The new models of global higher education exacerbate rather than erode inequalities of power and prestige between regions, institutions, and gendered, classed, and raced individuals.