Focus Area - Education and Social Inequality
Explain how the four components of thinking sociologically assist in understanding this area or domain.
Traditionally Australians have believed in and conveyed the myth of Australia as a fair , egalitarian society without excess wealth or poverty, however we are definitely not a classless society. Australia's education system has been and remains one of the most unequally distributed social resources and could possibly be regarded as the main source of inequality in our society (Encel 1970; Anderson & Vervoorn 1983; as cited in Jamrozik, 2009). Now more than ever, Australia's education system is acting as a kind of 'sorting out' mechanism, allocating people to certain stations within society and determining one's access to society's resources (Jamrozik, 2009). This process within Australia takes upon various forms such as, the division between public and private schools, systems of streaming within schools and the determination of the dominant hegemony within society (Jamrozik, 2009). Within this paper the issues of educational policy and social inequality in Australia will be examined in relation to the four lenses; that of Historical, Cultural, Structural and the Critical sociological imagination.
When considering the historical lens of the sociological imagination we pay attention to both continuity and change (Georgeou, 2010). In relation to education, Australia's change from a welfare state to a post-welfare state and key points in our educational history that have impacted on the country's social inequalities.
Australia has moved from a welfare state to that of a post-welfare state (Jamrozik, 2009). The welfare state was built upon the acceptance of responsibilities of all citizens as a matter of deliberate policy, committed to pursuing equality. On the contrary, the post-welfare state supported and encouraged inequality as natural and desirable to achieve a higher productivity and efficiency within the society (Jamrozik, 2009). Therefore, benefits such as income support, emergency relief or access to care services no longer exist as a right but as a criteria of who is the deserving or undeserving. Having such selective criteria in place, the post-welfare state has become particularly negative towards the poor. The alterations of state within Australia have experienced major changes to social and economic policies, which has had an overwhelming impact on Australia’s education system and inequality.
Over the last two decades social and economic policies within Australia have undergone some radical changes. Historically education was viewed as a right (Hall, 2010). Jamrozik (2009) concurs with this belief suggesting that 'In a democratic society, access to education is taken for granted as a citizen's birthright.' Meaning that individuals were supplied with a adequate foundation of knowledge and understanding, implicating that if inequality was to arise individuals were able to exercise some kind of choice within society. This view is central to specific changes in the history of Australia's society to educational policy. The first major change was that seen in 1972 where the government accepted full responsibility for tertiary education, that is where every individual within Australia's society received free tertiary education (Jamrozik, 2009). Another step of significance is that of the federal government taking partial responsibility for private education. However they lowered assistance to public schools, where the notion of a two-tiered education system became more formalised (Jamrozik, 2009). Another change in educational policy was implemented in 1989 where partial tuition fees were reintroduced for tertiary education under the governments Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), students given the option of either paying upfront or delaying payment to after finding secure employment (Jamrozik, 2009)....
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