Children's Lives and Schooling across Societies: Volume 15


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

A key tenet of the modern nation-state – embedded in the notion of progress – is the belief that our children can lead better lives than our own. Trust in the possibility of upward mobility for future generations drives movements of families around the world, and, indeed, drives the spirit of capitalism. In today's world, the notion of mass access to educational opportunity is a key element of the dream of upward mobility. This ideal is manifest in the huge public investment in schools that all nations must make, no matter how rich or poor, to signify membership in modern society.

In China, a growing awareness that many areas have been left behind during an era characterized by market reform has raised concerns about the impact of community disadvantage on schooling. In this paper, I investigate whether villages exert distinct influences on student achievement. Building on these results, I explore the relationship between student achievement and resources present in the community. Results indicate that children who live in communities with higher levels of economic and social resources have higher mathematics scores, on average.

We investigate how communities in China use schools to create and reproduce the values, knowledge, and social expectations that engender social capital. We focus on private and girls’ education, and report on the experiences of four schools between 1995 and 2005. We argue that, beyond schools’ contribution to the skills acquired by individual students, whether they promote the formation of social capital within communities should be a part of our assessment of their effectiveness. Schools as centers of activism can provide communities a forum for formulating their social demands and identities. In this context, social capital formation provides a useful heuristic for reclaiming the language of social justice and considering the human ends of education.

In Bangladesh, girls’ ability to complete schooling is compromised by poverty and the practice of early marriage. Although most girls enroll in school, rates of dropping out are high around puberty. This paper uses a panel survey (2001 and 2003) of nearly 3,000 adolescent girls in rural Bangladesh to predict schooling outcomes. The analysis explores household and community factors to explain school enrollment, dropping out and marriage. Girls in poor households are more likely to drop out before reaching secondary school. Girls in wealthier households are more likely to drop out later, because of marriage, and having more siblings increases this possibility.

Development efforts in education have failed to conceive of gender as a socially constructed process that legitimizes gender inequality, and this article attempts to explain why gender inequality in schools should be problematized in this way. I argue that in developing countries like Nepal, promoting access to and participation in existing formal education programs is clearly necessary, but it is not, in itself, sufficient to transform gender power relations in the broader society. Reports of unequal distribution of girls’ and boys’ participation in school tell only part of the story; to fully understand gender inequality in schools and in societies as a whole, what is needed is an exploration of how gender is socially constructed and maintained in both the school and the home. This article examines the complexities of gender in a rural village of Nepal. Specifically, I interviewed community members, parents, teachers, and students and conducted observations in school and home settings. This article focuses on the educational experiences of girls and boys as they were affected and influenced by attitudes about gender.

Using the data from PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), we compare the ways in which families and schools influence educational achievement among 15-year-olds between four Asian countries (Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand) and four Latin American countries (Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru). We find that family socioeconomic status (SES) affects student achievement considerably more in Latin America than in Asia. Compared to the relatively weak impacts of family SES in Asian countries, however, parental communication with children plays an important role in fostering achievement. The most evident difference between the two regions is the extent of school differentiation along family socioeconomic backgrounds. The extent to which students’ individual and family characteristics account for between-school variance in student performance is substantially larger in Latin America than in Asia. Although the overall degree of students’ sense of belonging at their school is significantly associated with increased student achievement in all eight countries, school climate factors are more relevant for student learning in Asian education than in Latin American education.

As Jennifer Adams notes in her paper, a number of studies within the U.S., as well as some studies in China and other low- and middle-income countries, have begun to address the ways that communities impact schooling outcomes. The potential role played by communities in local education has strengthened with the shift toward administrative and fiscal decentralization in many developed and developing countries. Often, fiscal decentralization results in a greater reliance on community financing of schooling, which, in turn, strengthens the association between where students live and the quality of educational services they receive (Bray, 1996a, 1996b).

Most of the empirical literature on child labor considers work per se, independent of the nature or extent of work. This study fills this void by examining child work that directly conflicts with the schooling of children in Ghana. It finds evidence of a cultural bias in the way questions regarding working status are perceived. Additionally, the study addresses shortcomings of the empirical analyses of previous studies related to collapsibility, spatial heterogeneity and specification testing. While a substantial share of children who work rather than attend school are forced away from schooling by poverty, an alarmingly high share report that school is “useless” or “uninteresting.” This should be of concern to policymakers. Eradicating poverty is not enough to “send children back to school” – norms, traditions, and perceptions must be changed, as well.

We examine the effect of orphan status on school enrollment in Zimbabwe, a country strongly impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic with a rapidly growing population of orphans. Using data from 2002, after controlling for other determinants of enrollment we find that orphans are less likely to attend school than non-orphans. Two additional results have implications for targeting: we find that the effect of being an orphan is especially large for older children and that, after controlling for previous education, the effect of being an orphan on school enrollment sharply declines.

These tandem papers – authored by Niels-Hugo Blunch and Craig Gundersen, Thomas Kelly, and Kyle Jemison – add to a long line of work that identifies the features of childhood and family that influence youngsters’ propensity to enter and stay in school. What's intriguing from the start of both reports is the variability in conditions in which children are growing up, evident in both Ghana and Zimbabwe. In these societies, between one-sixth and one-fifth of children, roughly between the ages of 6 and 16 years, are not attending school.

Studies of families and inequality in education have focused on the family as a preparatory institution for school. However, researchers have ignored the dynamic process of engaging with academic learning at home on a daily basis and minimized the importance of homework and instruction in this setting. Home observations of Ethiopian families who immigrated to Israel are used here as a case to describe three distracting factors which alienate children from learning at home in lower-class, poor immigrant households: deprived physical settings, sensory bombardment, and emotional stress. By looking at learning at home, this study points at root causes of alienation from learning and thereby adds another perspective on reproduction in education. Our study casts doubt on the ability of home intervention programs to curb social inequalities in education.

Yair and Gazit argue that many researchers – preoccupied with the effects of schools – ignore the forceful influence of home environs and parenting practices. They build from Goffman's (1967) theory of student engagement and the alternative, alienation from the school institution. As articulated by Yair and Gazit, the theory documents a tug-of-war between teachers’ efforts to capture their students’ attention and the multiple stimuli that distract students from pursuing their formal studies. The authors convincingly apply this model to the overcrowded and chaotic environments in which many Ethiopian children grow up.

Emily Hannum is Assistant Professor of Sociology and (by courtesy) Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on education, poverty, and social inequality, particularly in China. Recent publications include “Market Transition, Educational Disparities, and Family Strategies in Rural China: New Evidence on Gender Stratification and Development” (Demography, 2005) and “Global Educational Expansion and Socio-Economic Development: An Assessment of Findings from the Social Sciences” (with Claudia Buchmann, World Development, 2005). With Albert Park, she co-directs the Gansu Survey of Children and Families, a longitudinal study that investigates family, school, and community factors that support children's education and healthy development in rural Northwest China.

Subject Index

Pages 277-280
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Research in the Sociology of Education
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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