Socio-educational advantage

“But I just have to remind everybody that the inequalities begin very early and schools as institutions accumulate advantage or disadvantage over time. Studies I’ve done of young children’s early literacy scores estimate the proportion of variance that can be attributed to family home background for 6-year-old boys as low as 7%, and a bit more for girls, but the proportion, the SES effect on its own is something like 15% for 6-year-olds but it has a profound effect by the time people are 17. Schools do something which accumulate advantage or disadvantage over time, and so in the higher education sector we do need to be very careful about where we intervene and that our effort goes into getting in early into schools and working on people’s aspirations while they are children, not scratching around among ourselves to steal each other’s potential low SES students. It’s very important.” Bill Louden (ACARA Board Member)

I just love the image thrown up by the suggestion that universities are ‘…scratching around among ourselves to steal each other’s potential low SES students.’ What is probably more demanding of my attention at the moment is the claim that ‘Schools do something which accumulate advantage or disadvantage over time,…’ The ‘time’ he seems to be talking about is the individual’s years of education.

I wonder if I can look at whether or not a suburb or a locational community is seen as accumulating advantage or disadvantage over time in an analogous way? Of course, people considering that such things matter is quite a different to such processes actually occurring, but I think that explanatory models do not come out of nowhere (please excuse the intentional double negative and the lack of justification for taking a bit of a ‘sociology of knowledge’ perspective).

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