Session 183: Education & Inequality

Thursday 2nd January 2014

wpid-Sketch194184659.jpgDate: Thursday 2nd January 2014

Host: Peter Coville

Subject: Education and Inequality.


Just one shocking statistic that I found on the “Teach First” website: 3-year-olds from poor families are already one year behind other children in terms of school readiness. @GeographyCarrie said that she had talked to a nursery school teacher who had lots of anecdotal evidence to support this. Now it seems to me that this is something that schools and teachers are neither responsible for, nor can do much about in fact – the only really effective solution to poor school performance therefore is to reduce inequality in society.

@andrewmanson1 made the slightly different point that social rigidity i.e. social mobility, produces poor social outcomes, and @ukedchat wondered whether inequality can ever be eliminated, given that people aspire. @andrewmanson1 argued that segmentation and marketisation in education, rather than any conscious choice, was responsible for inequality, and I agreed that these developments do entrench inequality, as poor parents will be left with the choices that better-off parents do not wish to make. @clairemcilvenna threw in the thought that genetics play an important role in pupil performance – an issue that has been revived by some recent research which claims that DNA does indeed play a significant role. Other contributors perhaps deemed too dangerous to follow up on! She also made the point that regardless of social class or background, some children will achieve. But isn’t this the point, only some – a few – from poorer backgrounds do achieve?

@ukedchat asked whether this is just down to individual motivation, or whether the school can make a difference. @JAMingay thought that the matter was complex, and that there were many influences: wealth, family, school, outlook, experiences…@bekblayton thought that parenting came first, and institutional education second. @surrealanarchy wondered whether inequality was simply a fact of life, to which I replied that it is in some ways, but that social arrangements should try to reduce this rather than exacerbate it! He also thought that well-off egalitarian parents should give their offspring a culturally-rich upbringing in order to mitigate the effects of class. @ukedchat turned this round, saying that perhaps less well-off parents should be supported to give their children culturally-rich experiences.

At this point I threw in the contentious issue of private education: will we ever achieve educational inequality in the UK, so long as those who have real power – politicians, newspaper editors and so on – went to private schools and send their children to private schools? @EMathsUK didn’t think that private education was part of the problem – “you don’t fix a bad thing by wrecking a good one”, and that State schools should aim to produce equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. I replied that in practice “equality of opportunity” only means the opportunity of those whose resources (I was thinking of things such as decent housing, freedom from part-time work, extra tuition) allow them to come out on top.

Thanks to everyone who participated – including those whose tweets I didn’t manage to include in this summary (some of these below).

Tweet of the Week:

@EducateMiss No easy fix imo society as a whole needs to wake up, not just education #ukedchat @ukedchat @Petercoville

Eye Catching Tweets from the Session:

@AndrewManson: @Petercoville yes, it cannot really be otherwise – social inequality through social rigidity creates poor outcomes for society #ukedchat

@Petercoville: Does the obsession with “teaching and learning” hide the real problem in UK education: social inequality? #ukedchat

@SurrealAnarchy: #ukedchat does education cause inequality or exacerbate it?

@HeyMissSmith #ukedchat We have an already tiered system of education. The present direction will only widen the gaps in provision between rich and poor.

@clairemcilvenna: #ukedchat School is a major source of impact but parental and cultural influences are far more important.

@SurrealAnarchy #ukedchat do people think all private education bestows huge advantages on the kids who go there?

@EmathsUK @ukedchat @petercoville I don’t agree that private ed is part of the problem. You don’t fix a bad thing by wrecking a good one

@ziggy7 @EmathsUK Finland seem to have it sorted with no private schools.

About your Host – Peter Coville

After a gap year in Israel and a stint in the RAF, I studied Philosophy and Political Science at the UEA, Paris and Cambridge Universities, before training as a languages teacher at Goldsmiths College London. I taught English as a Foreign Language in Paris for 11 years before returning to the UK in 2008 to teach A levels in Philosophy. I currently teach A levels in Philosophy and Politics at Reading College, and am an environmental activist in the little spare time that I have.


Session 183 – #ukedchat Archive – Education and Inequality

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