Written submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills - Barriers to education facing vulnerable groups

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Title: Written submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills - Barriers to education facing vulnerable groups
Authors: Lynch, Kathleen
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/9559
Date: Mar-2018
Abstract: The equality principle governing Irish public policy, and particularly educational policy, is that of equality of opportunity which is theoretically based on merit. Those who adhere to the meritocratic position claim that those who work hard and are academically capable will do well in school regardless of their social background. The evidence does not support this claim: major social and economic inequalities inevitably undermine all but the thinnest forms of equality of opportunity in education because privileged parents will always find ways of advantaging their children in an economically unequal society. The inability of formal education to overcome social-class and related resource-based inequalities is a reflection of the general inability of liberal equal-opportunities policies to deliver social justice in an economically unjust society. This presents a major dilemma for educators; even when schools do their best to overcome the many social class (and increasingly ethnic/racial/disability-related) disadvantages that students experience within schools and colleges, they cannot eliminate the competitive advantage of the most advantaged in any substantive manner given the impact of out-of-school resources. Yes, there are individual exceptions, but the exceptions are deceptive and dangerous when taken as examples (role models) of what is possible for the majority; they prolong the meritocratic myth that hard work and academic ability are all that is required to succeed relative to others. What works for a few individuals from disadvantaged groups does not work for the majority within that group. We need to have a significantly more equal distribution of wealth and income to have substantive equality of opportunity in education. That is to say, to have equality of opportunity you need to equality of economic and political conditions. And, because all forms of inequality are intersectionally related, we need to address inequalities and barriers at macro, meso and micro levels simultaneously. For this to happen, fiscal, health, housing, transport, welfare, employment, childcare and educational policies need to be aligned with each other and framed in an egalitarian way. This means dealing with pre-distributional and post-distributional injustices in the taxation, welfare and other social systems, and addressing power respect, and care-related inequalities experienced by different groups at the same time. Finally, given the relational nature of all forms of inequality in education, and in particular how the competition for advantage in an unequal society drives educational practice, it is important to remember that the vulnerability of some is exacerbated by the perpetuation of the privilege of others.
Type of material: Technical Report
Keywords: EducationAccessVulnerable groups
Other versions: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_committee_on_education_and_skills/2018-05-29/
Language: en
Status of Item: Not peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice Research Collection

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