Sunday, July 20, 2008

Education is key – but is it fair and equitable for all?

Recently I’ve heard the phrase “Education is key” referred to some key people in education: Professor Roger Thomas, Director, Centre for Indigenous Research and Studies, and Konrad Glogowski, PhD candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, in his blog post Working towards Agency-Building Practice.

A series of conversations with a fellow parent and close friend regarding her concerns about some of the other parents at our children’s school trying to avoid the ‘welfare to work’ process, a system to ‘wean’ single parents of the welfare system, made me wonder:

‘Why doesn’t everyone want to improve themselves, participate in life long learning, and/or enter the workforce?’

As a person who values all of these and who is surrounded by friends and colleagues who feel likewise, I was perplexed to learn that these parents did not have these same values.

Why doesn’t everyone have the ‘aspiration’ to climb the ladder of ‘success’?

A conversation with an indigenous colleague at the Conference on Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship (CETS) helped me understand this difference in ‘valuing education’. He told me how as a child he would often visit an uncle, who owned and managed a large bed and breakfast business in a neighbouring country town. On one such visit, another, younger cousin accompanied them to ‘uncle’s’ holiday home and asked the question: “does a black fella own this big house?

This young cousin could not conceive that an indigenous people would be able to achieve anything like this.

So these situations kept me thinking:

Why do some people climb the ladder to success, whilst others don’t?

Here are some of the different reasons why I think people are not using their ‘key’ to success:

- “I know ‘education is key’ but I’m not good enough to access at it”
- “I don’t know ‘education is key’ so I don’t try to access it”
- “I know ‘education is key’ but I don’t know how to access it”
- “I know ‘education is key’, but I just don’t want to know how to access it”

So, if ‘education is key’ why do we have these situations?

Is part of the problem related to the homogenization of our educational systems?

“….. public schools enrol approximately 90 percent of students with disabilities, Aboriginal students and those from isolated and remote settings, the average cost of this public education provision is higher than in private schools” Elites safe from ‘Education Revolution’, Pg 6 AEU Journal SA Vol 40, No 1, February 2008

The endogenous and exogenous privatisation our education system is creating “economies of student worth in which student are deemed to be desirable, or not, on the basis of whether they are perceived to be an asset or a liability in relation to the performance benchmarks to which institutions must aspire.

In such local economies of student worth those who are seen as having high levels of academic ‘ability’ and as being easy to manage and teach are highly valued and sought after by institutions. Conversely, those students who are perceived as being of lower academic ‘ability’, or have special needs, or are perceived as presenting behavioural challenges, or who are recent immigrants with additional language needs are avoided.

These processes, driven by the demands of the education market, mark a shift from all students being perceived as learners to a narrow conception of the student and learner defined in terms of external performance indicators.”

This research, by Dr Stephen Ball and Dr Deborah Youdell from London University, commissioned by Education International found “marketised education systems…. can lead to segregation and homogenization of populations” and support the “…. growing gaps between the most advantaged socio-economic groups and the least advantaged groups as well as between ethnic majorities and particular minority ethnic groups.” Hidden privatization in public education, Pg 19 AEU Journal SA Vol 40, No 3, May 2008

Education is key – but is it fair and equitable for all?
The perceptional ‘hierarchy’ of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, those that are ‘able’ and those which are ‘unable’, and those who are given all of the ‘opportunities’ and those that are left to ‘struggle’ are supporting the self fulfilling ‘prophecy’ that the ‘liabilities’ of our education system are not expected to succeed so why should they even aspire to.


Marlene Manto said...

I have another one....
"I know education is key, but I'm not in a position to access it.

I believe it can also be a case of prioritisation. Some people place education very high in their list of priorities whereas others have situations and needs which cause pressure, and which force them to lower the priority even though they may recognise its importance.

theother66 (formally MadMiller) said...

Good point Marlene

I think a lot of our teaching staff might consider themselves to be in this category.

I also wonder whether we DO put enough emphasis on 'education' as being a 'key to success' - when you consider the high level of status 'education' is given in other cultures, like in a lot of Asian and Nordic countries.

Does the 'Ocker' attitude mean that being well educated equates to being a 'nerd' or a 'geek'? How does the 'tall poppy' syndrome work against 'education' being 'key'?