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The Immorality of Inequality in Education: Moving Beyond 'Common Sense' TUI National Symposium Investing in Education Dublin October 17th 2009 Kathleen.

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Presentation on theme: "The Immorality of Inequality in Education: Moving Beyond 'Common Sense' TUI National Symposium Investing in Education Dublin October 17th 2009 Kathleen."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Immorality of Inequality in Education: Moving Beyond 'Common Sense' TUI National Symposium Investing in Education Dublin October 17th 2009 Kathleen Lynch UCD Equality Studies Centre, School of Social Justice

2 4 major Social contexts in which inequality in education is generated or equality can be promoted (Issues of evidence) 1. Economic relations – levels of income and wealth inequality impact hugely on one’s access, participation and outcome in education – overwhelming evidence that the more equal a society economically the more equal it is educationally 2. Socio-cultural relations – how cultures and identities are valued impacts on what is taught in school; education defines what and who is or is not of cultural value 3. Power relations – a key inequality issue for many individuals and groups in education is powerlessness, a feeling of not being taken seriously or ignored in relation to decisions that impact on them Affective (care) relations – Education is about nurturing and developing people’s capabilities; Schools/colleges can undermine capabilities by not giving care

3 More equal societies produce more equal well- being, including educational and health outcomes ( Shavit and Blossfeld, 1993, Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009) Equality of economic condition is essential for promoting substantive as opposed to formal equality in education A rise in wealth and income inequality exacerbates educational inequalities If states allow income/wealth inequalities to rise this will decrease educational opportunities and social mobility – it enables parents to use private wealth to undermine equality policies promoted by the state Ireland remains one of the most economically and educationally unequal countries in both Europe and the OECD – it has only engaged in minor adjustments to educational inequality

4 Social class differences in participation rates in higher education Fig 1: Participation Ratio 1998 & 2004: father’s social class and national population. Source: O'CONNELL, P. J., MCCOY, S. & CLANCY, D. (2006) Who Went to College? Socio-Economic Inequality in Entry to Higher Education in the Republic of Ireland in Higher Education Quarterly, 60, Does state intervention to reduce inequality in education matter? Yes, but it cannot eliminate class inequalities Participation ratios for New Entrants to Higher Education in 1998 and 2004 by (father’s) social class

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6 Challenges to equality in Ireland: rise of market (neo-liberal) policies Ireland always had a market in education… But within a neo-liberal framework the market is morally endorsed as the principal provider of services Neo-liberal project is to reduce the cost to capital of public services – put services on the market Elision of the differences between public interest values and commercial values in education Denial that the rights to all forms of education are contingent on the ability to pay in a market system; ‘Choice’ ideology is the carrot that is used to soften the move to marketisation - reflected in new language of ‘customers’ in education

7 A reconstitution of citizenship under neo- liberalism Person is defined as a Rational Economic Actor (REA), an economic maximiser an Autonomous agent entirely responsible for her or his own success/failure Privatisation of interest - we are not responsible for the well being of others/undermining solidarity Lower moral worth accorded to persons who are not or cannot be employed -return to the deserving poor ideology e.g. reflected in moving poorer people/lone mothers/disabled people from welfare-to-work but calling it ‘restoring dignity’ Net Outcome in education: Focus on performance and performance measurement/ more effective means of selection and stratification The care and developmental dimensions of education are undermined

8 Impact of the neo-liberal Rational Economic Actor (REA) model of citizenship The immorality of class inequalities in education is no longer seriously questioned e.g. National silence regarding the elimination of the National Committee on Education Disadvantage in 2009 –The better off can afford to live increasingly socially and often physically distant from poorer members of society (gated houses/communities reflect a closing off from the needy) –The poor resourcing of education (and the lack of democratic accountability within it) is hidden from those who can buy it semi-privately or supplement it privately –Relatively low investment in public education impacts most negatively on low-income/vulnerable families as they cannot opt out or supplement it – the lack the resources to have their voices heard

9 New Authoritarianism in neo-liberal models of public service management Lack of dialogue as equals especially with marginalised peoples in designing services - reflected in the idealisation of ‘choice’ –No institutionalised mechanism for listening to the voices on the margins – Education Act 1998 copper fastened power of educational interest groups in controlling education –Higher education legislation (University Act 1997) centralised control and reduced democracy –Individual educators are often highly committed but all the powerful educational partners in Ireland are professionals (or if not, predominantly middle class) –The scope and complexity of inequalities in education become invisible when those who plan and design policies have no direct daily experience of injustice

10 Example of a new exclusions in the use of so- called aptitude tests – and new authoritarianism Health Professional Aptitude Test (HPAT) Mature Student Admissions Pathway (MSAP) (UCC and UCD for Arts and Social Sciences) Why ? 1.They are not curriculum-based and they advantage those who can buy practice tests; discriminatory in social class and age terms 2.What they purport to measure: aptitude for medicine or for mature student entry is not formally measured –HPAT has 110 questions– basically a multiple choice test on verbal reasoning/spatial reasoning/ ‘interpersonal understanding’ (not clear what the latter means) 3.Even if they were appropriate, neither is standardized for Ireland: both tests are run by ACER- entirely unregulated by the Irish State - an Australian business operation that sells tests

11 Section 1 HPAT sample question

12 HPAT and Gender The purpose of this whole section in testing people’s suitability for medicine is entirely unclear HPAT is directly discriminatory against women as section 3 is based on non- verbal spatial reasoning tests where girls are known not to perform as well as boys for a host of different reasons

13 Sample question from the HPAT

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15 Report of the US Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission, 2008 Seriously questions the use of standardized tests as a basis for selecting for higher education entry on: –Social class grounds – costs involved/practice makes perfect! –Racial/ethnic grounds/language grounds –Gender grounds as they are not as reliable for women Tests that are best predictors of overall college attainment (not just first year) are tests that “measure content covered in high school courses” (page 11)

16 Report of the US Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission, 2008 Referring to the use of tests as a way of measuring educational outcomes it says: “The Commission recommends that states refrain from using standardized admission tests without significant modification as evaluators of student achievement, …..Admission tests ….are not sufficiently tailored to measure progress toward explicit measures for learning in a given state.” (Page 10)

17 Why Equality in Education Matters 10 Reasons 1.Education is a basic human right Enshrined in Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Article 42 of the Irish Constitution 2.Education is indispensable for realising other rights – it enables one to overcome other social disadvantages – builds capacities of the vulnerable 3.Education has an intrinsic value for the development of the individual – capabilities, choices and freedoms 4.Education credentials are vital for accessing other goods, including employment, having a capacity to act as a citizen in politics and culture 5.Education is a Public Good as well as a Personal Good- enriches cultural, social, political/economic life

18 Why Equality in Education Matters 6. Schooling is compulsory: one should not be required by law to attend an institution that is damaging 7. Education plays a defining role in terms of educational and personal identity and as such should be egalitarian and respectful in its processes 8. Education plays a key role in defining what is of cultural worth so having respect for all knowledge and cultures is vital 9. Colleges/schools engage in the exercise power - having a say on decisions that impact on you is key equality issue for learners and teachers 10.Education – ‘educare’ means to nurture: ‘care- less’ education undermines learning and promotes inequalities of outcome


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