Education inequalities have to be understood in the broader frame of social inequalities. How are societies stratified? What drives some differences to become inequalities?

Why are some of these inequalities considered fair, while others are not? How are education inequalities linked to social stratification?
In order to address these questions, the first module of this course introduces some elements that are key to understand how contemporary societies are stratified according to some individual and group characteristics of the population. In addition, it focuses on the role of education in the production, reproduction and eventual breakup of the social mechanisms that lead to social inequalities. This initial module is relevant for understanding the other modules, as it will set the scene for analysing the causes and the potential solutions of school segregation. The module provides a common basis for following the overall course, regardless of the previous training/education of participants.

Objectives of the module: This Unit provides some basic theoretical and analytical tools to understand the role of education in the reproduction of social inequalities. In particular, the module objectives are:

  • To reflect on the relationship between justice, equity and education.
  • To explore the role of education in the reproduction of (social) inequalities.

Outline of the module: This module is structured in two units, which are related to the abovementioned objectives.

Unit 1.1. Education, justice and equality of opportunities offers an overview of the general approach to the Social Structure analysis and the main axis of social inequalities. It also broadly presents the main theoretical debates around social justice following the contributions of political philosophy.

In addition, it presents three key dimensions to assess education inequalities: the access to, the process of, and the outcomes from education.

Unit 1.2. The reproduction of education inequalities specifically explores the role of education in the reproduction of social inequalities by highlighting the political component of equity. It uses the analytical dimensions of access, process and outcomes to reflect on the role of the education system,
schools, teachers, students and their families to provide a wider understanding of the dimensions where education inequalities are produced, and the mechanisms that operate in each of them.