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DSJL 102083, 2016 Ali Hasna, 17730554

Are Australian schools meeting the challenge of equity and access in our democratic society? Discuss
the importance of equity in schooling practices by using examples from your own experience and
knowledge of schools to substantiate your point of view.

The Gonksi report (Australian Government, (2012) states, Australia in comparison to other developed
nations, continues to experience a higher segregation rate between a students background and their
achieved educational outcomes, thus highlighting inequalities as the diverse needs of students are
failing to be met. This essay aims to examine this notion, with particular focus as to how a students
socioeconomic status (SES) may impact their access to quality classroom learning. Furthermore, observe
how students with greater financial resources have access to increased educational opportunities,
proving highly unfair to those from a lower SES who experience reduced learning, not enabling equal
opportunities for all which ironically is the basis of a democratic society. Reference to the Gonksi report
(Australian Government, (2012) and Homework policy (Department of Education, 2012) outlines
relevant educational impacts. Marxism and Critical Theory are the applied sociologists theories which
intend to highlight power relations and dominance in regards to the selected social justice issue.

Gonski (Australian Government, (2012) discusses schooling equity issues in great detail within Australian
society further explaining how currently, certain individuals who contain key characteristics or cultural
perspectives are disadvantaged in their access to learning. An example of such is made with direct
reference as to how schooling practices lack the social inclusion of minority groups, such as the
Indigenous, hence providing them with the inequality of a disadvantaged education. In regards to access
opportunities, the composer of this essay shares a similar perspective in that differences in a students
educational outcomes must not be determined by their social power or income, hence SES abroad.
There is also the need to distribute infrastructure and budgeting not on the basis of a schools location
or ethnicity.

An example demonstrating the current equity issues experienced by minority groups are clearly outlined
in the 2010 NAPLAN results. NAPLAN aims to determine yearly averages (mean scores) and Figure 1,
seen below, highlights how Indigenous students differed significantly from their Non-Indigenous
counterparts. These results are reflective of a literature gap which equates to two full years of schooling,
a major educational injustice. Further research into what possibly caused these result-inequalities
follows in the paragraph below.

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Figure 1, Australian Government. (2012).

Socioeconomic status is the selected social injustice issue and according to (White 1982) has the ability
to determine an individuals intellectual capacity, attitude, grades, attendance and motivation to pursue
tertiary education. Social inequalities experienced during adolescence follow through with ramifications
into adulthood, (Goodman, Huang et al. 2003) draws connection between SES and the incidence of
later-life health complications. Additionally (Rothman 2003) provides two historical interpretations of
the concept which helps attain a better understanding of how SES impacts an individuals access to
equity in schooling. The (Coleman, et al., 1968) Equality of Educational Opportunity study correlates
how students from a low SES lack success in education due to originating from families where
household-morals do not allow for academia to flourish. The (Jencks, et al., 1973) Inequality report
adds to this perspective and explains how a persons poor school performance is preconceived by their
lower SES communal and school environment, thus highly stereotypical and unfair.

These interpretations outline power/inequality relationships whereby the degree to which an individual
obtains success in schooling is determined by the number of inequalities they experience. The
application of Marxism best describes this affiliation where a persons power in society derives from
their social class. Thus the Bourgeoisie can discriminate based on their economic power over the
Proletariat (Naidoo, L. (2015). In-terms of education this structure applies on the basis of educational
power (opposed to economic). The Bourgeoisie are found in environments which befriend learning as
opposed to the Proletariat who favor physical work, as apparent with minority Indigenous groups.

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The composer of this essay shares the view of (Najman, Aird et al. 2004) who describes how individuals
who originate from a lower SES tend to begin life with reduced health/hygiene due to being socially and
economically disadvantaged, differing from societys expectations of the norm (constructed by the
dominant population). Another view of the author, correlates to (White 1982) whereby a persons
individual characteristics including education, ethnicity, family size, occupation-aspirations and
regularity of travel, in-conjunction with school factors such as class sizes, teacher qualification,
infrastructure, staff turnover and location, can determine the attitudes, perceptions and motivations a
student has towards education and learning. This was observed numerous times as a student from the
Western Sydney district, as ethnic peers who often travelled regularly overseas where disconnected and
did not value education with high regards. Upon their return and being of a lower SES, most would leave
school at their own accord, which is a corresponding factor mentioned in the (Australian Government,
(2012) report, accounting for higher truancy numbers as well as lowered schooling performance in lower
SES climates. Additionally this particular school had a high staff turnover amongst educational members
which were not of the same ethnicity as the majority of students and instead shared cultural views of
the dominant society.

Critical theory examines how social inequalities are created and reproduced in society (Naidoo, L.
(2015). From the authors view above, it can be comprehended that a limited understanding of
multiculturalism, which differs from traditional Australian ideology, allowed for the disconnection
between a particular staff member and students, thus inducing a high staff turnover which proved highly
unstable to the learning environment (an inequality). Thus a critical theory approach by this teacher
could have reduced prejudices and racial conflict through a deepened understanding of the students
culture, allowing them to modify their own teaching pedagogy and tolerate individual learning,
regardless of what may have been deemed correct in the past, hence further preventing the
reproduction of their biased views which led to learning difficulties amongst their racially diverse

(White 1982) notes a relationship between a persons SES and how their attributes such as knowledge
or ethnicity, will determine the amount of inequalities they will experience in schools via being labeled
as a minority, ultimately limiting their power amongst the majority who have been identified as those
with greater wealth resources. This is supported by the claim high academic performance is mostly
accomplished by students from a higher SES, (White 1982). (Goodman, Huang et al. 2003) agrees with
this perspective and states how children with well educated parents are enabled with more resources to
assist academic performance and attend private schools in wealthier communities. On the contrary,
public schools from lower SES neighborhoods who share a greater focus on physical work, have fewer
resources, poorer infrastructure and are generally less hopeful of ever achieving success.

From the above it is evident that power in schooling, which originates from a persons SES and parental
educational levels, determines the level of equity and access a person has in accessing a knowledgeable
as well as engaging learning experience supported by a highly accommodating and resourceful
environment. Once again the Marxists viewpoints explain how those of the minority groups, Proletariat,
experience greater inequalities and less power than the dominant Bourgeoisie, who have greater power
which fuels conflict in society thus ultimately demonstrating the signs of a hierarchy where those at the
top have a clear supremacy over those at the bottom.

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Results from the 2010 NAPLAN, seen in Figure 2 below, demonstrate how SES and parental education
determine the intellectual advantages experienced by the dominant population over those from lower
SES backgrounds.

Figure 2, Australian Government. (2012).

Reasoning for such academic variations between high and low SES students seen above in Figure 2,
derives from (Perry and McConney 2010) who note curriculum differences amongst the various schools.
Faculties with higher SES populations, mostly mono-cultured private schools, tend to develop activities
aimed at academic preparation for tertiary education whilst lower SES communities, found in mostly
Public schools, house students of diverse backgrounds with varying abilities, thus tend to have a
curriculum construct which caters for their multidimensional needs, hence raising the difficulty of
achieving successful teaching. This clearly highlights a social inequality encountered by lower SES
students and the impacts of such are reflected in results as seen in Figure 2 above. (Perry and McConney
2010) continue to argue how policy makers must account for such diversity whilst developing the
curriculum and the need for greater intercultural understanding regardless of a students SES, thus
promoting equality and equal access.

Figure 2 clearly emphasizes claims made in the (Australian Government, (2012) report whereby the
greater the SES of a person, the higher their academic performance. This proves very unjust to those
from a lower SES, as factors beyond control of the individual have limited their educational status,
career options/income and ultimately the ability to exercise power in society. These attributes are often
then reflected in their offsprings own approach to life. Furthermore the results in Figure 2 support the
findings discussed throughout this essay and demonstrate how a persons SES and other background
factors such as parental occupation, ethnicity and demographic location determines their place in
society. Such a perspective accounts for the vast stereotypes which exist in society today, hence

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whereby those from a higher SES, differentiate themselves and adopt a sense of superiority over
others. Thus in direct reference to the NAPLAN results, parents who hold a Bachelors degree view
themselves smarter than those with a Diploma (reflected in their childrens learning), giving perspective
as to how such inequalities are reproduced in society, accounting for the unfair distribution of social

A schools Homework plan, which derives from the National Curriculum, is a relevant educational policy
which is heavily influenced by a students SES. According the NSW Department of Educations
(Department of Education, 2012) report, there are a range of factors which influence a persons ability
to successfully complete and benefit from homework including their age, intellectual capacity,
motivation and home environment. Another aspect of the (Department of Education, 2012) report tends
to evaluate the effectiveness of homework as a concept. It aims to create a feeling of achievement and
self-regulatory abilities amongst students whilst receiving assistance from their parents. This is another
unjust aspect of the policy as lower SES parents generally work longer hours and attain a physical skill
set over knowledge, thus restricting their ability to support their children. Teachers in such
environments must account for this factor and modify their pedagogy according to the best interests of
their students.

Current construct of the homework plan proves very rigid and raises numerous equity issues to lower
SES students. Due to their reduced economic conditions, its common that these individuals have part-
time employment essential to their familys livelihood, leaving little time to complete allocated tasks.
Higher SES students have both the time and finances to seek additional learning resources, such as after
school tutoring, providing them with a depend understanding of content (Department of Education,
2012). From a power perspective, homework is designed to benefit these students, the dominant higher
SES Bourgeoisie learners, and disadvantage minorities, lower SES Proletariat individuals, a major
inequality and possible contributing factor to the variations of results seen in Figure 2.

To conclude, the above literature provides sufficient evidence to state that Australian schools are facing
numerous equity issues in addressing the needs of the diverse students which form the greater-
construct of our democratic society. A persons SES does have the ability to determine their success and
status in a school. Current teaching methodologies aim to provide students of the dominant discourse
with greater power over minority groups on the basis of financial resources. An active teacher must
identify their individual students needs and adjust their teaching approach accordingly to provide all
pupils with a holistic model of education, ultimately enabling people with greater access and equity.

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Australian Government. (2012). Achievement in NAPLAN 2010 reading by parental education [Graph]. In
Review of Funding For Schooling, Final Report 2011 (p. 116).

Australian Government. (2012). Indigenous and non indigenous student NAPLAN performance, Years 3,
5, 7 and 9, 2010 [Graph]. In Review of Funding For Schooling, Final Report 2011 (p. 114).

Australian Government, (2012). Review of Funding For Schooling, Final Report 2011. Retrieved from

Department of Education. (2012). Homework Policy: Research Scan. Retrieved from


Ferfolja, T.; Jones Diaz, C. & Ullman, J. (2015). Understanding Sociological Theory for Educational
Purposes, Australia: Cambridge University Press

Goodman, E., et al. (2003). "A multilevel analysis of the relation of socioeconomic status to adolescent
depressive symptoms: does school context matter?" The Journal of pediatrics 143(4): 451-456.

Najman, J. M., et al. (2004). "The generational transmission of socioeconomic inequalities in child
cognitive development and emotional health." Social science & medicine 58(6): 1147-1158.

Naidoo, L. (2015). Poverty, Privilege & SES. Retrieved from


Naidoo, L. (2015). Understanding Diversity Through Sociological Theory. Retrieved from


Perry, L. B. and A. McConney (2010). "Does the SES of the school matter? An examination of
socioeconomic status and student achievement using PISA 2003." Teachers College Record 112(4): 1137-

Rothman, S. (2003). The changing influence of socioeconomic status on student achievement: recent
evidence from Australia. LSAY Conference Papers.

White, K. R. (1982). "The relation between socioeconomic status and academic achievement."
Psychological bulletin 91(3): 461.

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