Regions outside Europe are often attested a higher level of social heterogeneity and inequality on various axes. But even in Western Europe, social change and processes of migration have generated a greater degree of social diversity during the last decades. Which interdependencies, if any, can be traced between social heterogeneity and ideas/systems of education? In which contexts has education facilitated the empowerment of marginalized subjects and groups? How do students from different social backgrounds make use of educational opportunities? What role do habitus and practices of assessment within the educational institutions play? What influence do gender and class inequalities or other factors of social discrimination have on the accessibility of (higher) education? What experience do we have with affirmative action and quotas? When does education become a cause of social mobilization? Do the poor receive a different form of education?
Yusuf Sayed is the South African Research Chair in Teacher Education and the Founding Director of the Centre for International Teacher Education at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa. His research focuses on education policy formulation and implementation as it relates to concerns of equity, social justice and transformation.
South African Pre-School (Photo: private)
The formal end of apartheid was greeted with much optimism and many expectations. A new Government of National Unity with Nelson Mandela at its head signalled a new just and democratic social order, including social justice in and through education. Redress was assured through the deracialisation of education provision and the opening of schools, through equality in education spending and through a commitment to positive discrimination in favour of the marginalised. Whilst there have been many gains, twenty years later, formally desegregated yet class-based educational institutions, continuing disparities and inequities and poor academic achievement are key features of the contemporary educational order. Learner assessment results suggest that South Africa is characterised by a two-tier system of education, resulting in a poorly resourced public schooling sector serving the poor, while the wealthy have access to semi-private public schools and have significant management control over the running of the schools, rupturing the ideals of social cohesion encapsulated in the powerful metaphor of the “rainbow nation”. Based on a review of education policy in South Africa since 1994 (Sayed, Kanjee, & Nkomo 2013), this paper considers how this has come about, focusing specifically on a review of the changes in the governance of schools since 1994. The paper argues that for the poor in South Africa the doors of quality learning and education and social mobility remain firmly shut. In this context, this paper also considers some key strategies to advance social justice. The paper is a call to act with urgency to reform South Africa’s educational approach to make it possible to address the systemic crisis of education that especially affects South Africa’s historically disadvantaged and marginalized peoples.
Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by V. Kalyan Shankar.
V. Kalyan Shankar is ICSSR Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Economics, University of Pune (India). His doctoral research was based on the emergence and deepening of inter-country value-addition chains among select Southeast Asian economies.
In the delivery systems of higher education in India, there has been an attempt to counter social inequalities through implementing a system of affirmative action policies – implying positive discrimination – in favor of the disadvantaged. Lack of access to education is posited as a problem of those left out from the delivery systems, of inadequate representation and participation of certain social groups. The state intervention in countering underrepresentation has been through the constitutional provisions for reservations. The debates surrounding reservations and their implementation have been fought on several turfs. In addition to the more conspicuous divide of affirmative action versus meritocracy, academic enquiries have probed into reservations on caste versus class grounds, on the need for expanding the umbrella of reservations to a wider segment of the society and more recently, on the inadequacy and irrelevance of affirmative action once the turf changes from academics to employment.
Even as these debates are running their course, what about the delivery systems of education, the terrain on which the edifice of reservations is built? While socio-economic backgrounds do influence individual participation in education, can differentiated access to education be attributed solely to them? Can the systems be really termed fair in their attempt at creating equality of access? It needs to be recognized that the systems themselves generate their own set of embodied institutional distortions that get superimposed over and above socio-economic inequalities. This project seeks to explore the systemic dimensions of inequality in Indian education. This work has been centered on the distortions resulting from structural overlaps in the delivery systems and the restriction of choices in higher education based on the medium of instruction in schooling.