The case for an egalitarian education system in England : What is stakeholder opinion on abandoning classist structures?

Osindi, Antone Juma and Oztok, Murat (2022) The case for an egalitarian education system in England : What is stakeholder opinion on abandoning classist structures? PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Structural levelling of England’s steeply hierarchical educational landscape is a popular policy proposal advanced by egalitarian educationists. Social actors of this tradition are wedded to ending the system’s widely reported classist segregation, and are ideologically opposed to the current policy ‘norm’ of passing as social justice stopgap interventions that leave the education system’s neoliberal character intact, even as its steeply hierarchical nature perpetuates classism. This qualitative research put to the opinion of non-policy making stakeholders the egalitarian proposal that educational structures like private schools and all manner of hierarchical provision in the English state-sector be abandoned for a truly socially just education system to emerge. In so doing, the enquiry undertook the challenge of establishing wider appeal or policy viability of this long-held ‘socialist’ suggestion in the context of what is largely a liberal democracy. The proposal was resoundingly rejected by all stakeholder types, revealing a stark commitment to meritocratic accounts of social inequality, and an unwavering endorsement of current school structures as facilitating a fair system in which those endowed with natural ability or ‘work hard’ merit superior educational opportunities. Should this finding reflect wider public opinion, it would dent the moral case for the egalitarian advocacy and sever any hope of democratic mandate for policy makers concerned about class-based educational inequalities. Yet, it is important to lend ear to the egalitarian charge that the pervasive meritocratic turn identified in this research is a scam, a false-consciousness, which, like the American Dream, disguises the real determinants of social inequality – wider socio-economic inequalities and the structural organisation of schooling – which lie beyond the agency of the individual and which those benefiting from meritocratic practice have not earned. Though it looks like the neoliberal conception of social justice will hold English educational policy hostage for the foreseeable future, the prospect of a national service continuing on a trajectory of social inequality perpetuation does not augur well for the notions of a ‘fair’ society, a tag the UK prizes. Neither is meritocratic validation of educational inequality made easy by the growing epidemiological evidence that inequality is causally linked to adverse health and social outcomes and environmental degradation.

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Thesis (PhD)
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10 Feb 2022 14:25
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12 May 2024 01:35