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Why poor kids continue to do poorly in the education game

Written by Stewart Riddle (USQ) for The Conversation

We like to pretend that social class doesn’t matter in Australia, but the reality for children from low socioeconomic backgrounds paints a very different picture when it comes to education.

Why is talking about social class considered taboo in Australia?

Markets, education and class
One answer might be found in the pervasive influence of what Raewyn Connell calls the “Neoliberal Cascade”, where education is marketised and seen as a commodity. Market ideas of scarcity, access, competition and profit dictate education reform efforts.

Neoliberal ideas of individual freedom and autonomy, coupled with a fervent belief in market forces to “fix” education and provide social mobility have contributed to ever-increasing inequality.

In his book, Educating the ‘Right’ Way, Michael Apple demonstrates that the marketisation of education has led to the “exacerbation of existing social divisions surrounding class and race”.

The rich get richer while the poor continue to get poorer. And that bastion of Australian success, the middle class, continues to feel downward pressure.

We are not alone in this. A review of research in the UK found that social class is the strongest predictor of educational achievement. In the US, a gap of up to four years of schooling exists between wealthy and poor students. And the gap is growing.

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Posted 4 March 2014 Posted in Editorial, General, Low SES