Inequality in access to education at different stages of economic development: empirical and normative aspects

The project carried out a scoping exercise to identify empirical and normative aspects of access to education in 4 countries. The expansion of education has followed a remarkably similar pattern across the globe at different stages of economic development. As national income expands so does participation in education, through primary, secondary and ultimately tertiary education (Lee & Lee, 2016). Broad averages, however, mask inequality in the composition of those attaining education. For instance, in Scotland, people from working class backgrounds are underrepresented in higher education. Conversely, in low income countries, access to secondary education, further and higher education is often limited and unequal, typically disadvantaging the female, rural and low-income populations (UNESCO, 2016). The weight of empirical evidence shows education provides a range of individual and social benefits that are important for economic development, although aspects of this are contested (see e.g. Hermannsson & Lecca (2016) on education and growth). The empirical debate focusses on technical issues, whilst the research involves inherently normative questions, e.g. about the ideals, values and goals embodied in education systems. In international collaboration this can, at the extremes, lead to reductive and culturally-specific set of judgements or, conversely, cultural relativism, where comparison between different ethical frameworks is impossible. We aim to identify these normative dimensions in conjunction with empirical issues, drawing on normative theory which takes seriously diversity in the conceptions of the good, coming from diverse cultural and religious standpoints (see e.g. Colburn & Lazenby (2016) for application to education).

Focussing on participating countries, the aim of the study is to:

  • Map inequality in access
  • Identify the normative principles  (e.g. equality of opportunity) that drive access policies
  • Identify key policy documents and data sources
  • Identify key stakeholders and build awareness of the project

We further aim to:

  • Identify key international stakeholders, documents and data sources
  • Review key academic sources on educational access to identify the state of the art
  • Identify important questions at the research frontier that could be addressed as part of a joint research project funded through the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

PI and Co-PIs - International Collaborators

PI Dr Kristinn Hermannsson, Robert Owen Centre, School of Education, University of Glasgow

UK Co investigators

  • Dr Ben Colburn, Philosophy, School of Humanities, University of Glasgow
  • Ms Jeanette Findlay, Economics, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow
  • Barbara Read, Robert Owen Centre, School of Education, University of Glasgow
  • Hugh Lazenby, Philosophy, School of Humanities, University of Glasgow

Overseas Co investigators:

  • Professor Winford Masanjala, Department of Economics, Chancellor College, University of Malawi
  • Early career researcher, Chancellor College, University of Malawi
  • Professor Nonhlanhla Alucia Sukati, School of medicine, University of Swaziland
  • Dr Maria Jose Valdbenito Infante, School of Education, Alberto Hurtado University, Chile

Start and End Date

1 October 2017 - 31 March 2018


Funder and Funding Amount

Scottish Funding Council, Global Challenges Research Fund Small Grant £39,429


Related Publications

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See publications on project website: www.caie.org.uk


Project News

The aim of the study was to map inequality in access in participating countries; identifying the normative principles that drive access policies; key policy documents, data sources and key stakeholders and build awareness of the project.

Outcomes:

  • Mapped national and international stakeholders and project awareness building
  • Produced four national briefing papers from the consortium that identified best available evidence, data sources and key policy documents
  • Consortium workshop held in Dubai in January 2018 that built capacity in understanding of UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) funding procedures, worked on outputs and planned legacy
  • Reviewed international evidence and priorities of key players in ODA
  • Identified key international stakeholders, documents and data sources and reviewed key academic sources on educational access to identify the state of the art at a global level
  • Identified key important questions at the research frontier currently addressed as part of a joint research project funded through GCRF
  • Developed and submitted an ESRC GCRF grant application in collaboration with Chancellor College University of Malawi and Mzuzu University Malawi.
  • Developed a Consortium Website for sharing and learning: www.caie.org.uk  

Other expected capacity building outcomes included mutual appreciation of different perspectives and circumstances by discipline and consortium, improved understanding of the GCRF and practical requirements for administering funds from the GCRF (overseas partners). In addition to engagement of stakeholders with the objectives and methodology of the consortium’s empirical/normative approach and explicit support for a subsequent bid and involvement of GU colleagues with no prior experience of GCRF activities (Findlay, Lazenby) and an early career researcher (Makuta).


Associated Websites