Access to education and equality of opportunity
This essay will look at wether access to education and training is instrumental in promoting equality of opportunity in today’s Australia. The discussion will start with a description of the role of education and training in our society, it will continue with the identification of various social groups and the factors influencing their access to education in all its forms. Current policies will also be examined and commented on and it will look at ways that the community can support disadvantaged groups to move towards a greater equality of opportunity. The essay will conclude with a list of recommendations that could enable greater equality of opportunity in our society. The role of education in society can basically be divided into two main ideologies. The first and perhaps the oldest ideology or theory is termed the “Reproductive Theory”, this has long been promoted by the “establishment” as a way of ensuring that everyone knows their place in society and the “Status Quo” is perpetuated. Bowles and Gintis (1976) proposed a more up to date version, known as the “Correspondence theory”, this advocates that there is a “relationship between the nature of work and the education system in any Capitalist society.” Basically the theory says that the major task of any Capitalist education system is to train people so that they fulfil the needs of the production process. In this respect, Bowles and Gintis (1976) “show how various aspects of economic production (work) have corresponding features in the education system. In basic terms, the organisation of the education system explicitly mirrors the way work is organised in Capitalist societies.” The second theory is based on the concept of “Meritocracy” which is defined by Lawson and Garrod (2003) in the following way “A social system in which rewards and occupational positions are allocated justly on the basis of merit, rather than ascriptive factors such as class, gender, ethnic group or wealth.” In short, you get to your goal because of what you can do and not because of who you are: in Australia, society pushes the idea that everyone gets a fair go in life and success is based on ability rather then social position, wealth or ethnicity. Both of these approaches fulfil a need, the first keeps producing a constant supply of manpower that feeds the Capitalist process and promotes the idea that this is the path to happiness and fulfilment. The second gives the illusion of freedom and individuality by claiming that everything is achievable if you are smart enough and prepared to work hard and long. The root of the word 'education' is derived from the Latin 'e-ducare' literally meaning to 'lead forth' or bring out something which is potentially present and this introduces a third task of education, that of gathering knowledge for knowledge’s sake. In this situation people become perpetual students and gather information with no specific practical purpose in mind, they see education as a form of self-development and a measure of cultural maturation of a society. According to Rogers (1969) "The goal of education is inward freedom and complete human development, which leads to the accurate perception of reality free from distortion”. Purpel (1989) further says that” The goal of education is the cultivation of the individual's human capacities for 'self-actualization', for ‘love, justice, community and joy’." In theory, in Australia, everyone has equality of opportunity; unfortunately this theory does not translate into reality. There are social groups that have no easy or guaranteed access to educational opportunities and there are factors that mitigate equality of opportunity. The most obvious social group that lacks good access to education and training is composed of the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders (ATSI) population of Australia. This group suffers for several reasons including lack of initiative...
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