Tag Archives: Inequality

Videos of Conference Panel III: “Social Diversity and Education”

Chair: Jana Tschurenev (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)153_7769


Yusuf Sayed (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town)

Céline Teney (Universität Bremen)

Martha Zapata Galindo* (Freie Universität Berlin)

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?

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“We need education to decrease inequality” – Interview with Jutta Allmendinger

Allmendinger ProfilJutta Allmendinger is President of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center and Professor of Educational Sociology and Labor Market Research at the Humboldt University, Berlin. She recently published a discussion paper on „Social Inequalities in Europe: Facing the challenge“. In her interview with Gesche Schifferdecker she speaks about how we could overcome educational poverty, what our futural challenges are and why it is so difficult to discuss about education and inequality in a transregional context.

“Right to Education and Equal Education Opportunities. A View from Berlin”: Discussion with Anja Schillhaneck

Anja Schillhaneck; photo: Anaïs Bordes under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Anja Schillhaneck; photo: Anaïs Bordes under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0  

During the Winter Academy we invited Anja Schillhaneck, Vice President of the Berlin Parliament and Spokeswoman for Science, Sport, European and Federal Affairs for the parliamentary group of the green party “Bündnis 90/Die Grünen”, to share her expertise in the field of education policy with the participants.

In her presentation “Right to Education and Equal Education Opportunities. A View from Berlin” Anja Schillhaneck introduced the German education system and explained the particular challenges that arise from the three-tiered school system in terms of inequality and social mobility.

Discussion with Anja Schillhaneck; photo: Anaïs Bordes under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Discussion with Anja Schillhaneck; photo: Anaïs Bordes under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Drawing on her practical experience as a politician, she also discussed how recent reforms of the school system in Berlin try to increase the equality of education opportunities. During the lively discussion with the participants which covered various topics ranging from the “PISA shock” to university enrollment fees, Anja Schillhaneck provided interesting insights into current debates within German education policy.

You can also find a report by Anaïs Bordes on the discussion on Anja Schillhaneck’s website (available in German).

Equity and Social Cohesion in Post-Apartheid South African Education

Conference Paper to be presented by Yusuf Sayed

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.

The Role of Science in the Ideology of Five Models of Latin American Modernity

Conference Paper to be presented by Hebe Vessuri

Hebe Vessuri is an anthropologist and currently research collaborator at the Research Center of Environmental Geography (CIGA), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Her research focuses on science in world peripheries, the current internationalization of the social sciences and the interface between higher education, scientific research and other forms of knowledge.

To understand the role of science as a relevant component of the ideology of modernity in Latin America, we must recognize that, until the last quarter of the twentieth century, with different chronologies and nuances acording to the countries, the predominant form of social organization was the “state-national-popular matrix”. This matrix was based on the model of endogenous development, the “compromise state” (which corresponded to a pattern of unstable arrangements between the middle classes, organized working classes and dominant classes formed by the bourgeoisie and the oligarchy), social movements politically oriented toward the state and social integration, and the exclusion of peasants and the urban poor.

The populist formula implied the massification of public services and allowed a certain initial basic social democratization, in the form of access to specified goods or services. Crucial among them were the universalistic and expansive character of social policies: public education first, then public universities and the institutionalization of scientific-technical research were part of the process. The development crisis led to structural adjustments since the 1980s, which implied a problematic transition to another development model in which economic policies were aligned with the “Washington Consensus” and were later made viable by international organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank. In all cases, poverty and inequalities increased while the hithero existing relationship between the state and the social actors disarticulated, weakening their organizational and ideological capacity.

In recent years, several models linked to the reconstruction of relationships between state and society were proposed as responses to globalization. Scientific activity entered into the strategies of these models in different forms, as part of more or less exclusionist technocratic ideologies or of elitist programs, as an integral component of the identity struggles and for giving a sense of ownership to the modernization and transformation processes (cultural diversity) or as a general critique of the relationships between state and society. This paper briefly reviews five such models in which science and higher education play specific roles. The responses have fluctuated between equality and its need of a locus (society), and equity, which is an absolute principle that does not require a locus (such as a specific society). And they have occurred in the context of new inequalities, of globalization and of ascriptions as valued sources for social diversity and differentiation.

“Now We Know How These Schools are Being Run”: Children, Education and the Legal Form, 1997-2007

Conference Paper to be presented by Sarada Balagopalan

Sarada Balagopalan is an Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi, and at the Department of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University, Camden. She is the author of Inhabiting “Childhood”: Children, Labour and Schooling in Postcolonial India (2014).

In the decade preceding India’s Right to Education Act (2009), which guarantees each child the right to quality elementary schooling, the Delhi High Court adjudicated several cases involving the city’s elementary schools. Not only was the volume of cases unprecedented, but each drew attention to a particular aspect of the highly iniquitous landscape of elementary education with several of the judgements shaping key provisions of this new law.

In my presentation, I will focus on a few of these cases, not analyzing their judgements, but rather to explore the heterogeneous elements that compose a “case” and foreground the ways the “child” was deployed, both empirically and figuratively, to signal a certain urgency. My attempt is to both anchor as well as open up the discussion around “inequality” and “social justice” in elementary education in India by asking how judgements, which are perceived as a strong challenge to those who govern, get turned into a technology of power through the Right to Education Act. In what ways does invoking the “child” as an agential figure capable of exercising “rights” appear to ironically regulate the project of “social justice” at the same time that it underscores the inequality that underlies schooling?

Inequality Generating Process in Longitudinal Perspective: Educational Transitions and Occupational Trajectories in Three Mexican Cohorts (1950-2011)

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Nicolás Brunet.

Nicolás Brunet is a sociologist at the Centre of Sociological Studies, El Colegio de México. He is currently pursuing his PhD with a focus on inequality generating processes in a longitudinal perspective, both at educational and occupational transitions.

Past generations of stratification and social mobility studies have concentrated only on comparative examinations of mobility rates and mobility tables between countries. They have provided a comparative portrait of distinct mobility regimes linked to socioeconomic and industrial development degrees, as well as historical change of occupational patterns throughout different cohorts. In view of the fact that they work on a societal level, little insights were given on the individual level of job/status attainment. In addition, by mixing individuals of different ages, sociodemographic and occupational experiences, classical studies usually have arrived at an unrealistic and without-context picture of the individual level. Notwithstanding the importance of that task, the inequality generating process has remained a “black box”. This project suggests that combining the stratification and social mobility tradition with a life course perspective (LCP) could help us to tackle some of those “black box” restrictions. Thus, the aim of this research is the comparative analysis of trajectories of three Mexican birth cohorts (1951-53; 1966-68 and 1978-80), throughout school inequalities, occupational chances and social roles competition at different institutional and social settings and opportunities. By multilevel life event modeling techniques, this project looks at stratification trajectories, based on family background tradition, but also, by using an interlocking careers perspective. Contributing to a “connected” portrait of life course stratification logic, it also explores evidence of “cumulative advantages” versus “age-transitional” lifetime processes. At the individual level, it uses longitudinal retrospective information provided by “Encuesta Demográfica Retrospectiva” (EDER 2011) at the national level. To set up institutional and social settings, it uses data of General Population, Household and Housing Census (1960, 1970, 1990, 2000 y 2010) provided by IPUMS International Project.

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Education as a Fundamental Right: Deconstructing Socio-historical Discourses and Challenges

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Latika Gupta.

Latika Gupta teaches courses in educational theory and pedagogy at the Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi. She is currently pursuing a study on the deconstruction of discourse of the recently enacted Right to Education in India.

The challenge facing the Indian system of education, especially at the elementary stage, cannot be adequately met unless we examine the discourses and practices that have shaped the social construction of childhood and schooling. The recently enacted Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act demands and creates an opportunity for identifying and deconstructing such discourses and to examine them, not merely as problematic practices, but rather as culturally drawn borders between state and society. This project interrogates two such discourses: ‘child labour’ and ‘child marriage’ so that the larger socio-economic and cultural context can be examined in which education works. It studies this larger context by probing two discourses that constitute the conditions in which children of disadvantaged backgrounds struggle in order to fulfil their aspiration for education and the personal and social purposes associated with it.

The first of these is the discourse of child labour. This is called a discourse because it has shaped not merely the state’s policies towards the poor but also the popular perception of the lives and potential of children who live in poverty. One dimension of this discourse is the perception that teachers have of poor children’s ability to learn and engage with school knowledge. Children who worked officially as labour or who help their parents because of poverty both fall in this category. When such children come to school and sit in the class with others, in what ways do they get distinguished for their working role at home, and what are the implications of this distinction for their adjustment at school and learning? At this juncture, it becomes important to ask: ‘While poverty persists, can the child’s education be protected from it?’

The second discourse is of child-marriage. In the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-III survey, 47.3% of women reported that they got married before the age of 18. Out of these, 2.6 percent were married before they turned 13 and 22.6 percent were married before they were 16. Faced with these figures, we need to ask: ‘What are the school’s epistemological and cultural resources to act on behalf of the state in its battle against a practice as persistent as child marriage?’ The discourse of child-marriage is not restricted to the event per se. Its phenomenological power lies in the socialization of girls by the family in the anticipation of an early marriage. Is the school prepared to deal and critically engage with a patriarchal milieu in which girls are prepared from early life for marriage—an extended notion of the discourse of child marriage—and responsibility for work, even though it is officially not labelled as labour?

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Inequalities and the Production of New Cultural Forms at Government Secondary Schools in Kolkata, India

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Maya Buser De.

Maya Buser De is a PhD student at the Graduate School of International and Area Studies at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul. She works on the reproduction of existing inequalities and the production of new cultural forms by the students at government secondary schools in the megacity of Kolkata.

Indian cities like Kolkata are changing rapidly under the influence of globalization. Economic differences in the population have become more evident, not only in terms of the urban landscape but also in the educational sector. Elite and middle class students have moved to private schools, while government schools mostly cater to students from poor and marginalized backgrounds. Nevertheless, the efforts towards the universalization of primary education have paid off in many parts of the country, even though its quality often remains a concern. On the other hand, secondary schools have not yet received much attention, neither from the authorities nor from the academic community. However, in an increasingly competitive job market they are becoming more and more important for the future of youth from unprivileged backgrounds.

Through a multisite case study, this project attempts to understand how existing inequalities of caste, class and gender are reproduced in government secondary schools in Kolkata and at the same time how students produce new cultural forms to contest and creatively engage with them. This study relies on an approach in critical education theory, with a focus on the socio-economic and cultural dimensions of power relations in and around the school, parallel to an intersectionality approach to inequalities. Moreover, it employs the concept of cultural production, derived from cultural studies, as theoretical framework to understand the agency of students in contesting inequalities in the school environment.

Recasting the Self: Missionaries and the Education of the Poor in Kerala (1854-1956)

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Divya Kannan.

Divya Kannan is currently pursuing her PhD in Modern Indian History at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her study seeks to examine the history of education and discourses on poverty in the late 19th and  20th century Kerala, particularly amongst so-called lower caste groups.

The history of education in India is relatively a new field of research compared to its counterparts in sociology and psychology. Although, there have been studies on the system of modern education in the country from the 19th century onwards, most debates have tended to look at policy shifts. These can be broadly classified into two categories. One category of research comprises chronological histories of Indian education, detailing major policy shifts and the impact of western education on Indian society and polity. This group has argued within the simplistic framework of impact-response of the benefits of English education for India. One of the debates which has occupied scholarly attention in this regard has been the Anglicist-Orientalist controversy of the 1830s. Another loosely defined category, particularly in the post-independence period, has mined rich sources (albeit a majority of them official) to understand the trajectory of schooling in colonial India by looking at aspects of technical, vocational and mass education. The historical study of education has moved beyond the noting of enrolment figures towards assessing the role of education in shaping political contexts and social relationships. Questions of inequality, poverty, discrimination, assertion, empowerment and politicization have come to the forefront of new research on education.

Despite their evangelical agenda, mission schools became an important factor in local societies by enabling formal schooling opportunities to hitherto excluded groups. These mission schools provided instruction in the three Rs as well as subjects such as history, geography, elementary science and basic vocational training. For labouring populations, this opened up new opportunities, albeit limited, to develop new modes of expression, participation in the literate public sphere and to aspire for social mobility through new jobs. Missionary schooling, particularly for Christian converts also had a dual objective. European protestant missionaries aimed at moulding a new sense of self amongst their converts by attempting to break down caste markers. Education was the domain to introduce new habits, patterns of work, social organisation, gender roles and language for Christian converts.

It is this aspect of forging a new ‘individual’ that characteristically marks the project of schooling the poor in colonial India. It can be argued that it was a ‘double civilizing mission’ on the part of European missionaries and colonial government.  On the one hand, in tune with the colonial idea of a civilizing mission for Indians, as a whole, and on the other, ‘the civilizing of the lower caste/classes’ in particular.  In villages, missionaries opened schools for marginalised groups, and vernacular instruction was often provided only up to the elementary level, owing to financial constraints, among other reasons. They, however, actively engaged in the secondary and higher education in the towns, chiefly aimed at attracting the upper castes/classes and providing an English education which many wanted to gain government employment. This gulf in the educational provision tended to perpetuate existing social divisions. This research seeks to examine these overlapping motives by directing the historian’s lens to the education of the poor in the late 19th and 20th century Kerala, in south-western India.

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Educational Governance and Inequality in Higher Education: The Case of the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Ghana

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Jane-Frances Lobnibe.

Jane-Frances Lobnibe is a lecturer at the University for Development Studies, Ghana. Her research interests center on globalization and international education, diversity and social justice, gender relations, ecofeminism and sustainability.

In 1992, the University for Development Studies (UDS) was established with a mandate to increase higher education access for students in deprived rural regions of the country and northern Ghana in particular. As the first higher educational institution in the northern part of the country, the siting of the university campuses in three regions of northern Ghana serves in part to address the structural inequalities brought about by both colonial and post-colonial development policies as well as helps to address issues of access and affordability to bridge the human development gap between northern Ghana and the rest of the country. After twenty years of its existence, how far has this pro poor university fulfilled the socio-economic and equity imperatives of the four northernmost regions? This question needs to be addressed  in the context of contemporary research on structural inequalities in higher education that concentrate on conceptualizations that locate the politics of governance in processes that include or exclude certain groups from participation, representation and access  to educational and social practices.

This paper draws on interviews conducted with university administrators, and an analysis of enrollment trends and profiles of the students admitted into programs of two major faculties (school of Medicine and Agriculture) to assess UDS’ role in addressing educational inequality in the country within the framework of national accreditation standards and university policies. It attempts to unearth the silences of UDS governance that include/exclude social actors, perpetuating the very inequality it is purported to address. It will examine the extent to which the potentially equalizing effects of education have been ordered by the national accreditation board and UDS’ governance, and the implications for students enrolling from the deprived regions. The paper contends that the university has paid little attention to issues of access and representation of groups of social actors, but has rather adopted the narratives and production of images and principles that have historically been used to exclude the very groups from higher education participation for which it was established. It further argues that attempts to correct inequalities in higher education created by British colonial and post-colonial development policies cannot be done without engaging and confronting the very mechanisms and structures that have created the divide. To live up to its mandate UDS will have to rethink its governance principles as well as the narratives and images that are used to qualify or disqualify specific individuals from entrance.


Social Origin and Inequality of Opportunities in Colombia: Analysis of Educational Achievement and Occupational Attainment among University Graduates

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Andrea Cuenca Hernández.

Andrea Cuenca is a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Education, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. In her dissertation, she examines how socio-demographic factors, institutions and contexts influence educational achievement and occupational success.

This doctoral project analyzes the impact of social origins (SO) on educational achievement and occupational attainment of higher education (HE) graduates in Colombia. The questions addressed are: to what extent and through what mechanisms do SO determine the educational outcomes of individuals in the completion of a first university degree and the attendance of postgraduate education? To what extent and through what mechanisms do SO determine the occupation destination of graduates? And more generally, is the Colombian educational system contributing to equalize opportunities among individuals or reinforcing the inequalities associated to SO?

The research design consists of two main parts: (1) a statistical analysis of large existing datasets from the national information systems at the secondary and tertiary education levels, and; (2) of primary data collected from an online graduate survey. The first method allows capturing an overall scenario, by identifying the trajectories of university graduates (n=16,892) since the last year of school until their entrance into the world of work. The second part provides a deeper analysis on the explanatory mechanisms lying behind the reproduction of inequality of opportunities among a sample of this population (n=1,086).

Results from the first part suggest that SO have a significant impact on educational outcomes during secondary school but also at higher educational levels and in the later transition into the world of work. They point out that SO operate directly through socioeconomic status and cultural capital. The effects from the latter are particularly strong on the academic achievement at secondary education. SO also operate indirectly, through the segmentation of educational paths, on the academic quality of the institutions attended, and on income.

Two main complementary interpretations follow form these findings. On one hand, they are in accordance with the reproduction theories: highly-educated families through the parental credentials along with their economic capital, promote efficient learning environments for their children, who are more likely to reach the same educational level or higher. On the other hand, the mediation of family education between origin and destination suggest that it is also a device for social mobility. In this particular case, the quality of secondary school (strongly affected by parental credentials) is of special importance for later success at the university and the labor market. These findings emphasize the key issue of qualitative inequalities. Providing academic quality at secondary public schools is a way the Colombian educational system could break the existing link between origin and destination. At the HE level, however, while privatization has furthered participation of non-traditional students, it also has reinforced inequalities insofar as quality in private education continues to be a privilege.

New OECD Report: Educational mobility starts to slow in industrialised world

Although access to education continues to expand worldwide, the new OECD  “Education at a Glance 2014” report states that socio-economic divisions between tertiary-educated adults and the rest of the society are growing. Based on analyses of the education systems in the 34 OECD member states and a number of other countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa), the report gives an overview of recent developments in the realm of inequality and education.

The report is available in several languages. For more information please visit http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/educational-mobility-starts-to-slow-in-industrialised-world-says-oecd.htm.


Copyrights: © OECD Article: OECD Newsroom: Educational mobility starts to slow in industrialised world says OECD  9/09/2014 http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/educational-mobility-starts-to-slow-in-industrialised-world-says-oecd.htm.



Conference Program Online

The program of the conference “Inequality, Education and Social Power: Transregional Perspectives” can now be found in the conference section of the blog. Abstracts of the papers as well as more information on the speakers’ academic backgrounds will be available soon.

The conference will take place at the Berlin Social Science Center (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, WZB). If you would like to attend, please register at initiatives@trafo-berlin.de.

Conference “Re-Thinking Social Inequality” – Report Published

Recently, an interesting report of the conference “Re-Thinking Social Inequality” (12-15 May 2014, Hannover, Germany) was published at H-Soz-u-Kult. In the report, Vera Szöllösi-Brenig reviews the controversial discussions of the conference that, among other things, revolved around the question of how the social sciences cannot only further our understanding of social inequality but also contribute to a more sustainable handling of its effects. The report can be found at here (only available in German).

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