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Linking Lives with Rights: The Micro-Politics of Educational Decision- Making in Urban Mexico. Maribel Blasco Copenhagen Business School

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Presentation on theme: "Linking Lives with Rights: The Micro-Politics of Educational Decision- Making in Urban Mexico. Maribel Blasco Copenhagen Business School"— Presentation transcript:

1 Linking Lives with Rights: The Micro-Politics of Educational Decision- Making in Urban Mexico. Maribel Blasco Copenhagen Business School Email:

2 Introduction Compulsory schooling in situations of hardship: How, and by whom, are educational decisions taken? How are educational decisions negotiated with, and legitimated to, significant others? Collective/individual agency and strategies or determinism?

3 Fieldwork One year studying a public secondary school located in a marginal settlement in Guadalajara, west Mexico Methods: Group and individual interviews with students, teachers and parents Observation A survey of 84 students

4 1993 secondary made compulsory and a right Parents made legally co-responsible for assuring attendance Attempt to harness parental behaviour to the achievement of educational goals, not through sanctions but by introducing new, publicly endorsed norms of good parenthood

5 Neoliberal turn in education in Mexico Subsidiarity Efficiency Social participation Co-responsibility Satisfaction of individual needs is achieved in the family or the market-place Assumption that social capital can be drawn upon to support public goals Bonds of affectivity, solidarity and reciprocity exist at family level as resources that can be harnessed to social policy goals

6 Over 20% still fail to complete secondary Only around 60% of those who enter primary finish secondary

7 Why life course theory? Education: traditionally seen as a key arena in which individuals exercise the conscious strategies and choices that characterise modern life trajectories structured around the ideals of self-development, individual autonomy, rights and agency Education: where national and individual development projects intersect

8 Heavy focus in the literature on: Access to education Costs of schooling. School effectiveness: Pedagogy and teachers School performance, drop-out and failure The impact of educational policy on the above

9 The missing family? Focus on the outcomes and benefits of education: For the individual (life opportunities) For society (human capital) Focus on immediate educational situations (the school) Very little on the impact of education on families more broadly

10 When the family does appear Impact of various home factors on students performance: Socioeconomic level Family organisation Levels of parents schooling Type/quality of family relations In the longer term : Explore the impact of these factors on individual and societal development

11 Often a neoclassical vision of the hosuehold: Parents make the decisions Household, organised consensually and oriented towards the common good Educational decisions taken according to rational criteria Income Credit availability Number of children

12 Young people conceptualised as: Independent social actors with their own life projects OR Objects of public policy OR Invisible (parents seen as taking the key decisions about their lives) Parents/other family members conceptualised as Investing in and taking decisions about education Alturuistic and consensual concerning their children Invisible in terms of the returns on education Seen as accruing to the educand alone

13 Increase of years of compulsory schooling: Education figures more prominently in domestic planning over the household cycle than before School must increasingly be combined with work within and outside the home Coherent cross-generational logics about the role and importance of education cannot be assumed.

14 Empirical findings showed that Compulsory schooling was negotiated in families in various ways Educational decisions seen as affecting significant others, not merely those receiving schooling, both in the short and long term.

15 Educational decisions may be conceptualised as: Embedded in relations of reciprocity and long-term life planning processes and expectations. Complex outcomes of short- and long-term projections, not just about the futures of the children being educated, but also about those of family members whose lives are linked to theirs. Both education in itself and educational rights can pose a threat to family survival strategies Social and geographical distancing from family

16 Education and life course theory Offers tools to conceptualise links between education and informal institutions such as the family Education conceptualised as a process composed of social relations and institutional dynamics: not studied in isolation Focus on the long-term impact of education beyond the individual

17 Key concepts Linked lives Interdependence of lives over time, particularly in families Individuals are linked thorugh relations of kinship and intergenerational transmissions Development as a life-long process Relationships, events and processes have consequences for later life Projections about the future are based on past experiences Moral career Originally coined by Goffman Used by life course scholars to capture the way in which people evaluate and justify themselves and are evaluated by others according to their behaviour, social events and transitions in their lives in a given context

18 Biographical planning is only possible if social actors act according to particular cultural norms Solidarity and reciprocity function as: Practical mechanisms to assure welfare Normative mechanisms that sanction and reward particular types of behaviour Both rely on categories of moral obligation that are shared by or at least intelligible to all involved Threat points may be deployed to induce desired types of behaviour Sanctions: e.g. Loss of affection, withdrawal of economic support, social exclusion etc. Rewards: Econmic and domestic help, affection, empathy, assistance in old age etc.

19 Education and linked lives Schooling used as a threat point in family bargaining: the power of parental sacrifice I give you schooling Private expenditure on education in Mexico: 13.9% in 2004 School attendance conditional upon: Good grades Good behaviour Promises of long-term pay-back

20 Ive given you everything that makes you what you are and sacrificed myself so that you can study and I dont like to have to complain about you or to hear complaints from other people about you, you should know how to behave properly. I tell my kids – Im giving them as much schooling as possible, I want them to study, even if its just to the end of secondary school, because to get a job as a roadsweeper, a dustman, theyre already asking for secondary school … I want to give my kids everything I can, because tomorrow, God knows, and they know too, I want them to give me everything they can. I cried until I couldnt cry any more, I asked the Virgin Mary, I asked her Holy Mother, what have you got in store for my daughter? You gave her the intelligence to study, I wish you would make it possible for her to do it... Because I dont want my daughter to go looking around far away after she graduates, I want her [the Virgin] to let her stay here, I certainly dont want her looking for work somewhere else.

21 The one who encourages me to study is my Mum, she says Its OK, and anyway then you can get a job and earn your money and then youll be the one who can help out … and its true … So thats what I want to do, finish my degree and then … be with my Mum and help her in every way I can. With schooling, youll get the career you wanted in life and with it youll be able to help your parents and in the future, your children. I want to help my family, and studying is a goal I have to achieve in order to help myself and my folks. I have to study so that I can be someone, I want to help my whole family … Ill study as hard as I can so that I can thank my parents and pay them back for everything theyve done for me.

22 Schooling and moral careers Support for schooling as a key factor in childrens moral evaluation of their parents Compulsory education and educational rights: reshaping the definition of good parenthood Impact on parent-child relationships and support mechanisms for parents in later life? Schooling as inheritance

23 My Mum didnt do a thing … she hadnt even applied for me to go back to school, its not as though she said Right, now youre going back to secondary school, no, and so eventually the penny dropped, I thought Ill do it on my own, and I said Right, am I going back or arent I, what am I going to do? I knew that I had to study, I said to myself Im going to study, but I just couldnt find the right moment, I said to myself the others are all at school, whats my mother thinking? so I told my Mum and I got more and more stubborn (me puse terca): I am going back, I am going back. If I say Im going to study my father starts to say Why bother studying, youre never going to get anywhere anyway! He always tries to discourage me.. for example, if Im doing my homework, he makes me do something else even if he can see that Im busy – he forces me to get up and I feel very stressed. When Im doing homework I ask my father for help and he says I dont know anything, ask your mother, so I ask my mother and she just says Be careful, dont ask me when your Dads around. Because my father doesnt like it.

24 Well … my concern as the one responsible for my family … is to do something for them, leave them something … theyre on the way up and were on the way down, so tomorrow or one day soon theyll be up and Im on my way down and theyll say to me You didnt leave me anything! What did you ever do for me? Lately, thats the way kids are thinking: Whats my father going to leave me, as my inheritance? So, as I dont have anything right now, what are they going to do? Theyre going to be very disappointed with me, theyre going to be a bit resentful, theyll hate me, actually … Id like … well as I dont have anything to leave them, well Id like to leave them what my father left me, an education … Id like my son - OK, so he might say he isnt going to leave me any land or a house, we dont have anything of our own, but hes leaving me something of my own, my education, right?

25 Development and ageing as lifelong processes Lack of parental consensus over schooling Own upbringings Intrahousehold differences in income, welfare and support networks in later life Mothers and fathers relationships with their children Mothers: pensionless and widowed?

26 His Dad was very harsh with him, he wouldnt give him any money, from the age of 11 he worked … he sometimes didnt even have shoes to wear to school… in my case things were very different, in my family if you were studying you were given everything you needed and spending money on top of it. But my husband, he thinks the same was as many men, and its because of how their parents brought them up. I think a lot about the life of my father, my brothers: none of them has studied and things have gone very badly for them, very badly, so.. I reckon that if [my father] had studied … he would have been able to give us more or less what we needed … You have to study, study, study and get your papers. I began [secondary school] with many dreams, many many dreams, I dont know, many dreams to make come true.

27 3 main types of parental response Laissez-faire Student has to weigh up the situation and make up his/her own mind. Support (with conditionalities) Student must decide whether to comply with their demands or to drop their schooling altogether Obstruction Students must decide whether to persevere and oppose their parents, or to give in If one parent supports schooling, but another opposes it, all concerned must weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of opposing one family member and/or colluding with others in devising strategies to stay in school

28 Educational decisions are the result of complex processes of family negotiation Short- and long-term, individual, bilateral and collective considerations Young people have a greater say than normally thought in their schooling decisions due to: Lack of parental interest or support Conditions placed upon them in order to be allowed to attend school Perceptions of age-related roles and responsibilities in the context studied

29 Final reflections The right to secondary schooling creates new spaces for appeal and approach within the family: Behaviours over schooling become an important dimension in how students and their parents evaluate their own and each others moral careers. Lack of parental support for education = truncated life opportunities for their children

30 The right to schooling strengthens childrens capacity for agency within the family Potentially increased bargaining power Rights as a threat point

31 Education: a more important component of good parenting than before? From being a favour, schooling becomes a parental duty subject to sanctions by family members Impact on parental welfare in old age? Differences between mothers + fathers? Elderly people with no children to support them have been recognised as a policy imperative Less is known about the predicament of vulnerable elderly parents who do not enjoy a good relationship with their children

32 Policy assumes the existence of relations and identities that do not necessarily resonate with local realities: Consensual altruistic parents Invisible young people Children by law Responsible adults according to their parents Adolescents with individual life projects according to the school and teachers. Harnessing families to educational goals?

33 In a context where social policies are increasingly relying on support from families and/or communities: Need to explore and understand what type of mechanisms policies seek to mobilise to assure education (or other services) Need to explore the impact of such mechanisms on the social fabric upon which such policies rely

34 Whose rights, whose agency? Negotiated citizenship?

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