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Article

Jane Kenway and Diana Langmead

Whatever else it involves, elite schools’ core work is to help to make and remake class through education. Here, we provide an overview of their everyday practices of class-making and present ways of categorizing them: the spatialization of their social imaginations, their mobilization of feelings, and their class-based disavowals. These practices are well established in the local (national/state) context, and we devote the first part of the article to these. In the second part, we shift the angle of scrutiny and outline such schools’ class-making practices in the contemporary global context.

Article

Alpesh Maisuria and Dennis Beach

As described in Beach and Dovemark’s 2007 book, Education and the Commodity Problem, critical researchers have identified two fundamental roles for modern-day schools within capitalist states. These are the ideological and material roles and function, where schools produce ideologically compliant workers and consumers for a corporatist economy on the one hand, this is partly through a teaching and a curriculum, which is often hidden and informal; and, on the other form part of a corporate business plan for the accumulation of private capital in the welfare sector through mass outsourcing of welfare-State education provision and the wholesale commodification of education as a public service. This article presents a research method for investigating education in these circumstances. It is a method with a philosophical foundation not only for understanding contemporary educational empirical reality under neoliberal forms of capitalism, but also for developing critical consciousness for the transcendence and transformation of this condition toward a more just form of political economy and human existence. This research method draws from critical realism and its concept of explanatory critique as a way to forge a scientifically robust Marxist critical ethnography. In relation to this, the description of the method accompanies an overview of some of the basic principles and broadly accepted possibilities of and for ethnography and critical ethnography, followed by a presentation of what Marxist critical ethnography is and how Marxist critical ethnography functions as explanatory critique, respectively. This entails description of what explanatory critique is, and how it can be used to develop a philosophy of social science and an ontological base for ethnography. The aforementioned components together expand on a historical, theoretical, conceptual, and political development of ethnography as part of a Marxist approach to research and practice for social transformation.

Article

Mass migration has transformed the education systems of many Western nations. Schools are more culturally diverse than ever before. The relationship between race, ethnicity, and education is being increasingly scrutinized. Some ethnic minority students face continued educational disadvantages as seen in their overrepresentation in disadvantaged schools and lower ability classes, below-average performances in standardized tests, and lower rates of high school completion and university admission. In contrast, other minority students, notably many children of Asian migrants, enjoy disproportionately high educational success and are viewed as a “model minority.” The education outcomes of ethnic minority students are therefore sharply polarized and largely reflect their levels of socioeconomic advantage. While high-achieving Asian students are often children of highly educated middle-class migrants, underperforming groups are typically from less-developed countries or disadvantaged social backgrounds. While educational disadvantage among ethnic minorities has been well documented for many decades, the phenomenon of educational success among minority groups is comparatively less well researched. The debates and evidence relating to Asian migrant students’ educational success need to be examined to provide a more holistic understanding of the role of race, ethnicity, and social class in shaping outcomes. As the fastest growing minority group in many anglophone countries, Asian migrants are reshaping many education systems, offering a new educational “success story” that urgently needs to be more fully understood. While some commentators attribute Asian success to cultural values, such as Confucianism, these kinds of cultural explanations are often simplistic and essentialist. The superior performance of many Asian migrant students reflects a complex array of both cultural and social factors. In particular, their parents, typically skilled migrants with strong educational capital, bring with them norms and practices honed during their own experiences with fiercely competitive education systems in Asia. This makes them well equipped to succeed in the increasingly competitive and hierarchical educational systems of the West. Their aspirations and anxieties reflect their migrant status in our unequal societies. Therefore, cultural values are often mediated by structural factors including national policies relating to immigration and education, students’ social class background and migrant status, and prevailing race relations and structures of opportunity in migrant-receiving societies in the West, all of which contribute to the polarized education outcomes of ethnic minority students.

Article

Educational inequality is a persistent feature on the landscape of Irish educational history, and it remains a significant issue in the early part of the 21st century. There have been significant efforts at school reform in recent decades to intervene in a system that continues to provide significantly different outcomes based on socioeconomic position and background. These differentiated outcomes continue to be exacerbated by structural inequalities in the lives of people as well as by an increasing focus on neoliberal market principles in education. Interschool competition, particularly at the postprimary level, has fueled an ever-increasing marketplace where schools vie for desirable middle-class students through media-published school league tables. Indeed, this competitive landscape is partly constructed by an intense and high stakes race for third level places in Ireland. Nevertheless, significant policy measures have also been aimed at leveling the playing field and providing opportunities for people in communities that are more marginalized in terms of economic status and educational outcomes. Some of these policy interventions have had some impact in terms of retention in postprimary school, including the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools program; curricular interventions into education such as the Junior Certificate Schools Programme; the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme; and the allocation of additional teaching resources to schools experiencing marginalization. Schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route and the Disability Access Route to Education have also done important work in terms of ameliorating opportunities for students from marginalized economic groups and students with disabilities, respectively. However, there are overarching sociopolitical ideologies that work to maintain educational inequality in Ireland, such as the significant impact of neoliberal choice policies on schools in communities experiencing poverty and educational marginalization. These neoliberal ideas are characterized by increasing focus on outcomes, testing and assessment, school and teacher accountabilities, within-school and between-school competition in terms of admissions policies, and “syphoningoff” high-achieving students (academically, musically, sports, etc.), and they often manifest in blunt instruments such as school league tables. These policies often benefit citizens with wealth and cultural capital who use their position to distance themselves educationally from the complexity and diversity of everyday society in favor of academic and cultural silos that work to reproduce advantage for the elite sectors of society.