King, S. & Sher, M. (2015). ‘What Role, if any, Can Education Systems Play in Fostering Social Transformation for Social Justice? Prospects, Challenges and Limitations’ European Journal of Education, 50: 250–253.
King and Sher argue in their paper that educational systems can have a role in fostering social transformations for social justice, but until the market economy model that is imposed on contemporary educational systems is critically evaluated this will be limited. They claim that current prescriptive pedagogies that rely on the child’s, teacher’s and school’s need to succeed, and conversely, on the fear of failure, to motivate performance, constructs individuals as instrumental learners, seeking to learn to gain tangible rewards for doing so, and/or to avoid punishment for failing, is a barrier to fostering transformation for social justice.
King and Sher question of the role of education methods in social justice, and consider the powerful role that current education systems have in supporting the status quo. In their view, many aspects of the education system perpetuate privilege among the elites and provide an inferior level of education for the rest. Policy to target extra funding to schools with pupils from more deprived backgrounds has aimed to improve inequality. However, a recent report states that ‘the next government will inherit a school system in flux and key issues of equity and achievement still unresolved’ (Thomson & Lupton, 2015).
Heavily stratified societies based on historical social class tend to support privately-funded education, thus perpetuating limited social and professional achievement and mobility for children attending state schools. Class-based privilege extends beyond the realm of education into a sense of entitlement to govern, as graduates of private education become the nation’s rulers where they vote the necessary funds to support private education, and so the cycle goes round.
The paper can be accessed on the European Journal of Education website.