Friday, July 13, 2007
UK reports lack of social mobility despite greater access to education
I have researched education in the Philippines, a nation where participation in all levels of education has been high for generations. Despite this high enrolment in education, the Philippines has been characterised by low economic development associated with low levels of social change, especially in the area of social mobility. One aspect of my research was to identify whether there were aspects of the education system, itself, that led to these results. I focussed on the private nature of most Philippine education, an aspect which became more important during the last quarter of the twentieth century when, as a result of structural adjustment programmes, there was a shortage of public investment in education. In the Philippines, therefore, there is effectively a market in education. What I concluded was that the Philippine elite competes from within its own ranks for access to the high value end of this market, thus excluding poorer Filipinos from participation in that part of the sector which appears to offer educational quality. The intra-elite competition has effectively become the education system’s function and focus, so access to quality education is denied to the vast majority of the population. My findings also suggested that the continued use of market forces in education accentuates and exacerbates this effect, thus further precluding social mobility. The Philippines is thus a country where it matters where you were educated, where there is an identifiable queue of graduates of education, with the elite associated with particular institutions and geographical areas. The British appear to be proud of the “high standards” set by the elite sector of their education system, hence we can still have a debate about the potential of grammar schools to promote social mobility, despite the fact that if implemented they would exclude three quarters of the population. In addition, it is clear that access to quality education at all levels in Britain is determined by a market in house prices, a market in which where the elite sector competes within its own ranks for access to quality, thus driving the market. It is not exactly the same as the privatised Philippine education system, but it would appear to work the same way. Today’s finding on social mobility cannot therefore be surprising.