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The benefits and disadvantages of elite education: Was it worth it?

Featch, J., Perry, L. and Ledger, S.ORCID: 0000-0001-7050-1001 (2019) The benefits and disadvantages of elite education: Was it worth it? In: 34th Annual Research Forum. West Australian Institute for Educational Research (WAIER), 3 August 2019, The University of Notre Dame, Fremantle.


No studies have examined the perspectives of elite school alumni about the value and disadvantages conferred upon them by an elite private education. This project sought to establish whether elite alumni's school experiences positively affected their post-school lives and what wider patterns or themes about elite education could be found. The study was guided by Bourdieu's concepts of cultural and social capital, used to understand the benefits, limitations and opportunities afforded by elite private schools. In-depth interviews were conducted with eight participants, three male and five female, then transcripts coded in Nvivo. Preliminary results showed the long-term value of social capital first acquired at school differed by gender. Some participants credited their elite schooling with steering them away from drug-taking and poor decisions about sexual behaviour, and towards university; they felt this would have been reversed had they attended a public school. The benefits of social capital that were found could easily be acquired at non-elite schools. Also, when compared with their parents, participants were either at about the same or of a slightly higher socio-economic status. Given these limited long-term benefits of elite schooling it could be timely to reconsider the utility of continued government subsidisation of private schools.

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