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The role of education in the production and reproduction of inequality Essay Example

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Question 1

The role of education in the production and reproduction of inequality

The role of education in the production and reproduction of inequality


A populace that is educated is a fundamental source of growth in economic directly, via the enhanced productivity of employees, and indirectly, by encouraging innovation and facilitating advanced technologies’ diffusion (Jayaram, 2011). It is crucial to appreciate that inequality brought about by education is greatly defined by economic and hence racial lines. In most countries, Australia included, separation is more than race since it is indivisible from residential location, socioeconomic status, and more presently, by language. Colour of the skin is connected to other inequality form, which is apparent in education.

Educational difference involving minority students and white students continues economic and social inequality. Research shows that between 1970 and 1988 there existed inequality shrinking between racial groupings but from then there has been an increase of the gap again. Educational difference has turned out to be among the most significant social and political issues in various countries (Jayaram, 2011). There have been various trials at modifications and this is still going on. With diverse origins that are intensely rooted in society, culture and history, this inequality appears to be difficult to wipe out.

century, technological transformation has functioned to enhance the virtual demand for workers that are skilled and educated (Sullivan et al, 2011). In academic idiom, technological transformation has been considered as skill-biased whereby smart machines call for smart workers. Technological change raises the virtual demand for educated workers that are educated and skilled, but educational progress raises their virtual supply. The race involving technology and education can bring about declining, stable, or rising levels of economic disparities. thFrom the start of the 20

Since the enlightenment period, education has generally been perceived as carrying the capacity of lessening inequality and expanding the social and economic opportunities available to the public (Jayaram, 2011). A lot of debate surrounds the issue of the extent to which that capacity has been in the past and is currently being realized. Expanded opportunity is significant not just to a community’s well-being in economy but also to the nature of social, cultural and civic life. It is imperative to acknowledge that these investments in education do not take place within a vacuum. Bigger social structures like the government and law, property rights and markets, patterns and practices of gender and racial inequality provide an outline that conditions effects of education (Ogg et al, 2009).

Deep inequalities within social environments and family circumstances create serious challenges towards achievement of equal opportunity in education. And still for individuals who have good educational opportunity, numerous other issues within community and family life control their prospects. Whereas these observations need not to be applied to prevent various schools from performing their best to improve students’ prospects from backgrounds that are disadvantaged, it is important to properly understand how bigger social structures as well as the contexts where schooling takes place (including nutrition, housing, libraries, health, family circumstances, transportation, and public safety) influence the schools’ capacity to nurture educational together with social outcomes (Jayaram, 2011). In addition to expanding the lives of people in various ways, education enriches life too. This is seen through their political and civic involvements, employment opportunities, and their lives’ quality.

This generation of Australians is better educated than previous generations. However, Bourdieu argued that the education system is not meritocratic. Meritocracy in this context means the political philosophy which stipulates power needs to be vested in people in relation to merit. Such system advancement is grounded on perceived academic talent measured via examination or illustrated achievement within the implemented field. It is stated that institutions of education teach the traditions of the leading group that influence the political, economic, and social aspects (Jayaram, 2011).

The institution of education aims to protect the cultural investment of the leading group. Additionally, there is promotion of education so as to preserve the social ladder. Bourdieu noted habitus concept whereby social class patterns in relation to behaviors, values and way of dress control people’s action (Jayaram, 2011). The learners have symbolic as well as cultural capital which brings about inequality within their educational achievement. In this case, habitus symbolizes the situation of class and mirrors inheritance of culture. Furthermore, there is review of literature that examines Bourdieu’s theory in cultural reproduction. The center of the debate is on inequalities within the system of education as well as social reproduction within capitalist societies.

The institutions of education facilitate the cultural capital as well as reward middle or upper class students while others are excluded. Through Bourdieu’s theory on social reproduction, the focus endorsed the connection between social class, family and education. The cultural capital’s inequality symbolizes the inequality within social class in the sense that the leading social class is promoted by the school (Jayaram, 2011). The educational organizations turn out to be the fundamental social reproduction’s agent.

It has been argued that education is basically a power system to protect hierarchies in addition to organizing the individuals’ actions. Moreover, there exists a connection between the political and economic system of the community and education’s role. According to Irwin (2009) students from socioeconomic positions that are higher may possibly do better compared to students coming from socioeconomic positions that are lower. Tzanakis (2011) also established that the background of social class influences the students’ educational performance. In the process of education, there exists no equality within the social hierarchy which mirrors inequality. Again, it was stipulated that there is considerable cultural capital’s effect of parents on children as well as their schools’ performance.

Since Pierre Bourdieu argued that education system is not meritocratic, it then permits inequality of social reproduction across generations. In his argument, he cited that education is basically the battle field to achieve social resources (Tzanakis, 2011). There exists a system of hierarchy within the society where individuals maintain several capital forms like cultural and social capital. The fundamental education’s role is reproduction of culture whereby the leading classes of culture within the society are reproduced by education. Another argument has also stated that social privileged students are very advantageous in the system of education. For instance, information communication technology (ICT) use implies inequality patterns whereby individuals whose education level is higher have influential access to education system as well as the advanced technology. As started above, success of education is hence affected via socioeconomic background, ethnicity and gender.

With regards to Australia, the education system of Australia demonstrates inequality and differences in gender. An example is seen where male students are outshined by female students at various educational levels. This is supported by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2012) which found that twenty seven percent of Australian young women have various Bachelor degrees as well as other higher educational qualifications unlike young men in Australia whose percentage was 25%. However, job choices for Australian people are very minimal. The major irony is that regardless of women outdoing men in education qualification, Australian young men get full-time employment compared to young women who are either unemployed or work part-time.

Even though education has greatly grown within the Western nations, there is narrow proof to social equality. The successful function of education in establishing Australia’s future as an educated country has been outlined. For this to be achieved, a country needs to implement post-industrial society’s requirements via embracing a workforce that is multi-skilled and flexible with higher level of education and fit in the competitive global economy. On the other hand, high education cost in Australia just like in any other country is quite expensive since there are parents who have limited income hence their children are not able to access excellent higher education resulting to being disadvantaged largely in the society and employment world.

The government has a significant influence on the system of education whereby policies of education are linked to the state policies with respect to employment, welfare and health. It was reported by the Australian government that there exist a lot of developments within the system of education to promote innovation and productivity (Australian department of education, employment and workplace relations in report 2010). On the contrary, there is still the number of disadvantaged students who come from socioeconomic background that is low and are not able to get proper access to higher education. To help the needy students from underprivileged socioeconomic background, the Australian government provided funds in 2009-2010 as well as in 2012-2013 with intention of helping these students pursue their higher education which is actually a necessity in the current competitive job market.

Moreover, the government intends to offer the essential help for disadvantaged students to go to the university. Some of the assistance include and not limited to counselling services, academic support, and financial support to facilitate students’ success.

It has been mentioned that there is lack of free and independent system within the system of public education as a result of the schools’ favor to people who are influential and rich within the society. Additionally, students are moving from schools that are public to ones that are private. However, only those who can afford the costs are moving. For those who cannot manage the expenses required at the private schools are forced to remain. Education carries the influential role in penetrating the labor market and creating job opportunities (Heath & Sullivan, 2011). Individuals who have limited qualifications in education have less opportunities of work. Individuals who are highly educated gain advantaged access to opportunities because of their knowledge and skills.

On the other hand, individuals who have low performance and abilities in education are more at risk to social marginalization. Privileged individuals have the utmost access to system and choices of education. The success in education is transferred to the family as well as the social environment. Conversely, there are some disadvantages in the system of education for people who are poor and are not able to afford the system’s requirements. On the contrary, it is contended that institutions of education help learners to rise above their family influences and difficulties (Heath & Sullivan, 2011). The system of education aims at equipping students with fresh skills in addition to experiences so as to later adjust to work and life’s new challenges. The interaction should involve teachers, students and parents so as to facilitate effective educational system outcome.

It has been stated that cultural capital could not be established by Bourdieu in a very comprehensive manner where there exist a lot of complex issues and cultural capital forms. Additionally, it has been argued that educational attainment is to some extent influenced by cultural capital although it does not take part in explaining the effect in social class. Furthermore, students are not rewarded by the school or teachers as a means of social reproduction. Hence, Bourdieu’s theory on cultural reproduction is not helpful and lacks social reproduction and cultural capital’s definition (Jayaram, 2011).


In conclusion, there are various debates concerning education’s role in the social inequality reproduction and exclusion. Through his cultural reproduction, Bourdieu outlined that a major role is played by education in social differences. This theory is greatly supported by several research as well as literature which illustrate the major role played by education in social difference and exclusion. On the other hand, some criticisms concerning Bourdieu’s theory are there. Hence, it is imperative to comprehend the barriers together with the challenges within the system of education and support institutes of education to offer effective input so as to increase social equality accompanied by opportunities for future generations.

Reference list

Irwin, S 2009, Family Contexts, Norms and Young People’s Orientations: Researching Diversity, Journal of Youth Studies, 12, 4, 337-354.

Heath, A., & Sullivan, A 2011, Introduction: The democratization of upper-secondary education. Oxford Review of Education, 37 (2) 123-138.

Australian government, 2010, Australian government report of the department of education, employment and workplace relations in 2010,Regional Participation:
The Role of Socioeconomic Status and Access, Retrieved on May 18, 2013 from http://deewr.gov.au/

Sullivan, A, Heath, AF, & Rothon C 2011, Equalization or inflation? Social class and gender differentials in England and Wales, Oxford Review of Education, 37, 2, 215-240.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2012, Degrees and certificates more popular than ever, Retrieved on May 18, 2013 from

<http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestProducts/6227.0Media%20Release1May%202012>

Jayaram, L 2011, Social reproduction reconsidered: A critique of Bourdieu’s concept of habitus based on mothering urban youth. Ann Arbor, MI: Proquest, Umi Dissertation.

Ogg, T., Zimdars, A., & Heath, A 2009, Schooling effects on degree performance: a comparison of the predictive validity of aptitude testing and secondary school grades at Oxford University, British Educational Research Journal, 35, 5, 781-807.

Tzanakis, M 2011, Bourdieu’s Social reproduction Thesis and The role of cultural capital in educational attainment: A critical Review of Empirical Studies, Journal of Education, 11 (1) 76-90.