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Article

Arnd-Michael Nohl and Nazli Somel

When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, the new rulers established a national, secular education system, in contrast to the previous Ottoman system of Islamic schools. The country then saw a rapid expansion of education that helped reach the vastly illiterate population and later provided secondary and tertiary education for the future workforce. This took place parallel to the developing industry and service sectors, starting in the 1950s. By 1980, Turkey had become a largely urban society, and enrollment in grades 1 to 5 had grown to 97%. By the year 2000, enrollment in grades 1 to 8 was at 100%. Since its foundation, centrally organized education in Turkey has been an important instrument for the ideological formation and social promotion of its citizens, so it has stood in the middle of political and social debates. The ideological direction of education in Turkey stands at the crossroads of nationalism versus minority rights, and secularism versus Islam. These have been ongoing issues, most apparently in the discussions on allowing mother-tongue education (especially Kurdish) and opening and closing imam and preacher schools. The variant poor quality of education has occasionally been a point of contention and catalyzed competition between schools, teachers, and pupils. The growing competitive character of Turkish education was accompanied by great social inequalities between gender and class positions as well as between geographical regions. Regarding the educational inequalities, the changed character of education after 1980, from being a public service to an enterprise, also involving the private sector, namely, the neoliberal education policies era, became one of the main discussion topics. Since the Justice and Development Party, under R. T. Erdoğan, took power after the 2002 general elections, upper-secondary and tertiary education has grown, but the quality problem remains. Similarly, social inequalities were still a highly critical problem in education, reciprocally fueled by an ever-growing competition into which private schools and universities were forced. After the ruling party succeeded in getting the state apparatus under its control and announced a “New Turkey,” the government turned its back on the ideological foundations of the republic and promoted additional religious education in general schools, as well as in the imam and preacher schools, whose graduates were again permitted to follow nonclerical career paths.

Article

Jonathan Pratschke and Giovanni Abbiati

In the social sciences, the term “peer effects” has been widely used to describe the various ways in which individual behaviors and attitudes can be influenced by friends, acquaintances, and the wider social environment. Due to the crucial role of social interactions within the school context, the role of peers in shaping academic outcomes has been under scrutiny for decades. Following seminal work by Manski, we distinguish between three different components of peer influence: endogenous (where the behavior of an individual varies in accordance with the behavior of the peer group), exogenous (where the behavior of an individual varies with the characteristics of the members of the peer group), and correlated (where the behavior of individuals is shaped by shared environmental or institutional factors). By estimating a simultaneous autoregressive model, we assess the relative strength of these three forms of peer influence in relation to secondary school exam results in a large sample of Italian school-leavers. One limitation is that we are only able to observe peer influence within the classroom, while another is that the study is confined to a specific moment in time, which comes quite late in young people’s educational trajectories. The results confirm that peer processes play an important role in the reproduction of social inequalities, against the backdrop of institutional criteria for the selection of students into schools and classes. These factors therefore demand the sustained attention of educational administrators and policymakers.

Article

China has experienced major shifts from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, from centralization to decentralization, from state ownership to privatization, and from a decisive state to a weakened state. Despite China’s economic miracle, the country also faces unprecedented challenges, including rising social inequality, rural-urban divide, regional disparity, environmental degradation, declining health and education conditions, and polarization between the rich and poor. China’s profound socioeconomic and political transformations have led to significant fundamental changes to education in China, as manifested in its decentralization, marketization, and privatization. One significant paradigm change relates to the devolution of education power and policy from a centralized governance model to local governments. With the privatization and marketization of its education system, China has adopted a market-oriented approach with the orientation, provision, student enrollment, curriculum, and financing of education. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that there has been a withdrawal of the mighty state from its paternalistic role in the provision and subsidy of public education. Unfortunately, the market economy has further increased education inequalities. The maldistribution of resources and education opportunities raises important questions about issues of social justice and equity regarding who gets how much education as the social good.

Article

International comparisons demonstrate considerable educational inequality across Latin America. Since the return of democracy in the region in the mid-1980s, these educational disparities have become an important object of studies and public policies, not least because educational inequality reflects, and entrenches, deep social inequalities across the region. Studies of this phenomenon are multifaceted, with distinctions between qualitative and quantitative approaches corresponding to distinct disciplinary fields (sociology, psychology, history versus economics, notably), university departments (colleges of education, sociology departments versus economics departments), and gender (women versus men). Qualitative approaches examine a limited number of cases, usually using interviews and ethnographies, to examine a circumscribed space of social action, often limited to a small set of institutions within a single national framework. Studies carried out in this perspective support the construction of hypotheses that can then be tested with a larger number of cases. They are particularly suited to identifying multiple, mutually influencing causalities, thus enabling a dense description of the complex dynamics that lead to the reproduction of educational inequality in the region. At the same time, these approaches have not tackled comparative analysis nor have they addressed the global dynamics affecting education in the region.

Article

China’s higher education system witnessed quite a few dramatic institutional changes in recent years. The state has been making a series of attempts to increase the quantity of higher education opportunities through massive expanding of higher education’s capacity (also referred to as the massification of higher education). Meanwhile, the system experienced marketization and privatization, in which the funding for higher education institutions (HEIs) increasingly depends on the non-state sector and student payments for tuition fees. The private (minban) HEIs and Sino-foreign HEIs began to develop in China. With a strong conviction to enhance the global competitiveness of top universities, master plans for developing world-class universities and disciplines were initiated, and talent programs were adopted to attract global high-skilled talent to HEIs in China to enhance the teaching and research capability of HEIs. In recent years, HEIs have been granted larger institutional autonomy with greater accountability. Higher education in China has experienced dramatic institutional changes in recent years and has made great achievements and gained international acclaim. Given such capacity, HEIs became one of the largest systems in the world. More and more higher education opportunities have been provided for students, and an increasing number of leading scholars in the world have been attracted to HEIs in China. However, the development of higher education has encountered several challenges—in particular, unequal opportunities for higher education attainment, difficulties for college graduates in finding employment, and the unequal development of higher education among disciplines, between universities, and across regions. Critical reflections on the development of higher education in China and the notion of broadly defined educational equality are required.

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

The ubiquitous use of high stakes tests in K-12 schools in the United States has a deleterious effect on students of color (e.g., Black and Latino). Punitive policies related to test outcomes, such as retention and graduation, have been particularly damaging. In fact, the historical use of tests has been linked to exclusionary and racist motives resulting in discriminatory practices in college admissions while leading to genetic and cultural deficit theories to explain low achievement for students of color. The legacy of these early uses of tests has maintained its adverse presence in today’s educational landscape. National data on grade retention, high school dropout rates, and achievement indicate that students of color are disproportionately penalized by school-based policies resulting in an unequal educational experience. Unfortunately, these trends have been persistent reflecting achievement gaps between White and Asian students and Latino and Black students, and where, in most cases, no meaningful progress in eliminating these gaps has been made. English learners are particularly harmed by these policies and tests since language and opportunity to learn (OTL) concerns persist. Trends of low achievement are attributed to poorly resourced schools, cultural deficit theories employed by school personnel, and the invalid use of tests. Schools could serve students better by employing a curriculum and instruction that is culturally and linguistically relevant, that integrates communities and schools to critically analyze their educational and social-political status and agency thus empowering both for lasting change. Furthermore, teachers need to be empowered to be instructional leaders who critically evaluate their curriculum and instruction so as to educate and liberate students of color.

Article

High-stakes standardized tests standardize which knowledge is assessed, and because consequences are tied to their results, they have the impact of standardizing classroom content, teaching, and learning. The result is that students whose cultural identities do not fit the standardized norms created by test-based must either adapt or are left out of the curriculum and the classroom. This happens in a few key ways. First, as schools face increased pressure to raise test scores, curriculum content that embraces the diversity of student history, culture, and experience gets pushed out. In turn, this standardization of content limits the diversity of teacher and student identities expressed in classroom pedagogical experiences. Finally, given the disparate racial achievement on high-stakes tests, students of color face more intense pressure to perform, while at the same time their educational experiences become increasingly restricted and less rich than those of affluent, whiter students. Additionally, even though educational research has consistently shown that high-stakes testing correlates most strongly with the socioeconomic backgrounds of students and their communities, policymakers and many educators presume that these tests are offer objective measurements of individual merit. This mistaken belief ulitmately serves to hide and justify existing inequalities in the United States under the notion of individual achievement. The overall result being that high-stakes, standardized tests reproduce educational inequalities associated with race and class in the United States.

Article

Rosemary Papa and Fenwick W. English

Educational leaders in many countries have come to realize that (a) many of their problems are similar to those in other nations; (b) some of those problems fall outside the boundaries of the nation-state and involve many countries; (c) not only does the problem of social, material, and political inequalities fall outside the purview of the school to resolve, but beyond basic literacy and numeracy skills, schools tend to reproduce such inequalities; and (d) an awareness of educational issues when shared and dissected can present new opportunities for the local leader. Educational Leader without Borders (ELWB) is a group of international scholars and researchers who have joined together to study and discuss their potential solutions outside the politics of the local nation-state. An urgent situation has developed as mass migrations have erupted from climate change and war (leading to failed states) and from neoliberal attacks on promoting solutions for schools, thus further eroding schools’ efficacy for children of the poor and disenfranchised. The most difficult problems are those resulting from long-standing cultural practices which are deeply embedded in the public mindset and past traditions. Misogyny is one such tradition. It begins with denying young girls access to formal schooling in many parts of the world, excluding them when menstruation begins, and following the cultural traditions that support limiting rural boys in their education. Neoliberal pursuits have erupted and expanded the chasm between those-who-have and those-who-have-not. Western education is bashed and seen as polluted by these neoliberal norms. As ELWB scholars, we wrestle with the research done on others by others as the field of education is a context-bound integration of the society within which it is embedded. The context is shaped by the history, culture, and political policies of the specific nation state which are heavily influenced especially by economic and military considerations. Global awareness of issues, we believe as educational leaders, raise the possibilities of greater local understanding and ultimately on-the-ground actions by those immediately affected: school leadership, staffs, students, families, and communities. The counternarrative for this is the one-size-fits-all educational neoliberal approach found in the growing tentacles of artificial intelligence and all of its media supports. ELWB seeks new knowledge that is enhanced by all that technology offers but is not bound by it. We believe that human interactions are steeped in promising practices, with localized actions and the belief that education offers happiness in life while supporting the planet earth. This is the goal of the ELWB.

Article

Marta Caballeros, Jeannette Bran, and Gabriela Castro

Inclusive education, as stated in declarations and human development goals, features in the educational policies being implemented in Central American and Caribbean (CA-DR) countries (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic). The policies seek to give the entire population of each country permanent access to quality education services, and they have a particular focus on people with disabilities. However, there are considerable challenges to be overcome, caused by a combination of historical factors and the sociopolitical and economic context. Some of the countries still have significant levels of poverty and inequity, both of which hinder the development of inclusive education. At the same time, inclusive education is expected to help eradicate social exclusion and facilitate social mobility. This paradigm began as an effort to secure disabled people’s right to education, and countries have since been working to offer disabled people access to regular schools. Nevertheless, segregated education services or services with an integration aim still persist. Moreover, poverty causes many students to drop out of school, or never to enroll at all. Each country has vulnerable or marginalized groups in its population. The work being done, from an inclusive perspective, follows two main routes: reorienting education systems toward inclusivity; and offering these groups affirmative actions to ensure their regular attendance at mainstream schools that have quality programs for all. If CA-DR countries are to achieve inclusive education, they must fulfill two requirements. Firstly, they must develop intersectorial interventions that revert causes of exclusion—education policies in isolation are unable to do that. Secondly, they must take action to ensure that inclusive education is achieved in practice in the classroom. There are advances toward inclusion, but more work is needed to answer the question of how CA-DR countries can develop inclusive societies, based on social protection and quality education services for all, that give proper attention to diversity, practice equity, and promote social mobility. Bottom-up strategies are valuable in the effort to achieve inclusive education.

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.