Education Markets and Inequalities

  • Dennis Beach


As the chapters of the present book make very clear the claims of equity that have been made about the Swedish education system can and should be seriously questioned and this forms the main theme of this chapter. Social background and issues of place, race, class and gender strongly influence the educational path people have been recognised as able to take and the education that has been availed of has had distinct gender and class markers and is now also increasingly marked by involvement according to issues of race and place. These disclosures have been proven in many other countries too of course and they seriously contradict all suggestions about an education of comparable quality and individual value for all, and subsequently integration and full citizenship rights for everyone.

When analysed together the empirical chapters in the book provide good grounds to question the idea of education justice and equity as expressed in the political aims of education from a series of left and right centre elected governments in Sweden between 1945 and 1992. These dates are important according to Börjesson (Från Likvärdighet Till Marknad: En Studie av Offentligt och Privat Inflytande över Skolans Styrning i Svensk Utbildningspolitik 1969–1999. Örebro: Örebro Studies in Education 52, 2016). They correspond to the period when the project for a common comprehensive school as a political project was effectively begun and ended, as was the political emphasis in education politics on class and gender parities, common values and progressivism. These aims have been weakened and there is now an emphasis on individual interests, flexibility, responsibility and freedom of choice. Yet education justice and equity are still formal aims of the education system, which should still be socially just and equitable at all levels, regardless of gender, ethnic, religious, geographical and socioeconomic background, though now on the basis of competition between schools and the exercise of personal responsibility and freedom of choice.

The suggestions concerning structural inequalities in education are given further attention in the present chapter. However, also pointed out is that the obvious inequalities in the system have worsened recently, following the introduction of market choice and school competition, as marginalization and the segregation of socially disadvantaged and ethnic minority groups has increased at the same time as differences in education consumption and performance levels have widened. The notion of a comprehensive education for all has transmogrified and the rhetoric of inclusion has become a metaphor for the dominance of human capital, manifested in personal choice over social justice, compeititon between schools and the excersise of personal responsibility.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis Beach
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Education and Special EducationUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden

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