EDEV_503 Week 1_4

I have a question for you. You wrote (as many have done) “HE is increasing the gap between those who have and those who do not have”. Statements like this seem so ahistorical to the point of absurdity, but as they are often mentioned, I would like to know the evidential basis for the claim.

The opposite─that discrepancies between the rich and the poor have reduced significantly─is much more likely to be true. Although by 2015 there are still 58 million primary school age children without access to education (UNESCO, 2015), the notion of universal access even to the primary levels was unthinkable before WW2. Trow (2007) describes the progress in first-world countries after WW2 from elite education, where up to 15% of the appropriate age population attended university, at the tertiary levels to the universal, where over 50% attend. Of course, university attendance does not necessarily mean wealth, but as Trow points out, the obligation to attend results in “failure to go on to higher education from secondary school is increasingly considered a mark of some defect of mind or character that has to be explained, justified, or apologized for” (p. 253).

From WW2 to the point Trow first made his ‘elite-mass-universal’ observation in 1973, income equality reduced in first-world countries as well as in many developing countries (see Stone, Trisi, Sherman, & Chen, 2014 for data on the US situation).

Since 1688 to 1911, the top 5% of income earners in the UK took just under 40% of the total income. After WW1, this fell to around 5% in the mid-70s (Roser, 2015). Data since the 1980s have shown an elevation in eight first-world countries to between 8% and 18% (Roser, 2015).

Looking at the historical record, therefore, current access to education is more open than at any other time. If the unit of measurement is at the decade─too short for a philosophical discussion like Barnett’s about the future role of HE, and more akin to short-term political debates─there may be an argument for increasing inequality between social groups. However, this argument is rarely demonstrated. In It’s place are inexact and unsupported claims. Is there something I’m missing? Or are we uncritically accepting the current political moods as bases for long-term philosophical trends?


引用/ References (in Japanese at least, in’yo)

Roser, M. (2015). Income Inequality — Our World in Data. Retrieved October 13, 2015, from http://ourworldindata.org/data/growth-and-distribution-of-prosperity/income-inequality/

Stone, C., Trisi, D., Sherman, A., & Chen, W. (2014). A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1–16.

Trow, M. (2007). Reflections on the transition from elite to mass to universal access: Forms and phases of higher education in modern societies since WW11. In J. J. F. Forest & P. G. Altbach (Eds.), International Handbook of Higher Education: Part 1 Global themes and contemporary challenges (pp. 243–280). Dordrecht: Springer.

UNESCO. (2015). Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All. Accessed on Oct 13 2015 from http://www.unicef.org/media/files/UNESCO-OOSC-EXS-Eng-web.pdf


About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a private university.
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