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Keeping up and keeping out: Mapping middle class schooling

Wilson, Leigh Herbert Alexander (1996) Keeping up and keeping out: Mapping middle class schooling. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the role of middle class schooling in patterns of social disadvantage and privilege. The outstanding performance of a group of government secondary schools at tertiary entrance examinations is widely recognised in Western Australia and is reflected when these schools are popularly described as "Superschools". The practices behind the success of these schools and the systemwide effects created by that success provoke the consideration of a range of issues.

A critical methodology is used in providing a comprehensive explanation of the phenomenon of high achieving government schools and involves: Conceptual and economic analyses of class in Australia; a geographic analysis of urban space in the Perth metropolitan area as it relates to class and government secondary schools; an historical analysis of changing government policies for school boundaries and curricula, and; an ethnographic analysis of one of the Superschools in the form of locally-based interviews and document analysis.

Evidence is presented identifying a middle class which has been able to exploit opportunities in creating non-fee-paying "Superschools" as educational sites where tertiary entrance examination performance is optimised. The achievement at a level comparable to expensive private schools by these middle class government schools has influenced wider patterns of privilege and disadvantage in education. It masks the real discrepancy in the overall performance between private fee-paying and government non-fee-paying secondary school systems and at the same time is related to the constraints on educational opportunities available to students in other government schools in less affluent areas. Significantly, despite the rhetoric of meritocracy and freedom of choice, urban space provides an arena where economic structures and social practices intersect producing differentiated opportunities and choices in education.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Watt, John, Currie, Jan and Bell, James
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/51379
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