University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education, UK
Charleen Chiong, Aliya Khalid and Juan Chen, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
This panel explores the collective, familial and intergenerational understanding of educational and social mobility in the Global South and contributes towards the development of a sociological sensibility in understanding the pedagogic work of parents in negotiating the future of younger generation. Drawing on the given cultural specificities, it illustrates different meanings attached to education within familial aspirations and strategies for social and intergenerational mobility (Appadurai 2004). Schooling, seen through these relationships, is a vital part of the ‘intergenerational bargain’ under which resources are transferred between generations in the families in exchange for certain rights and responsibilities (McGregor et al, 2000:447). Families not only shape the dispositions, values and aspirations of their members (Bourdieu 1977), they also re-interpret, resist and re-contextualise government policy ideals and agendas (Bernstein, 1990), reconciling them with their own histories and visions of the future.
This panel draws on four contributions, grounded empirically in qualitative data collected through innovative research designs to capture cross-gender and cross-generational dynamics, in Pakistan, Singapore and China. These studies examine parents’ complex conceptualisations and lived experiences of their perceived rights and responsibilities (McGregor et al, 2000:447) in preparing their younger generation for the future. They illustrate the cultural construction of ‘intergenerational (educational, social and international) mobility’ and the differentiated capacities, strategies and capabilities of families and their members, within and across generations, to aspire for education as a means for greater social mobility (Sen 1999;Appadurai 2004;Hart 2016). Collectively, the empirical insights offered by these papers bring family to the prominence in an international sociology of education, offering new insights for educational policy-making and policy research.
Title: Aspirations for taraqqi: Situating schooling in the intergenerational narratives of social mobility in rural Pakistan
This paper examines the aspirations of young men and women and their parents for social mobility in rural Pakistan. By tracing the ideas, meanings, values and norms about good life for individuals and their family members within the given cultural specificity, it fleshes out the commonly understood notion of taraqqi – a concept close to the idea of social mobility. Understanding the systems of ideas underlying taraqqi helps understand the cultural regimes shaping family members’ ‘capacity to aspire’ (Appadurai 2004:67), and the role of schooling in shaping such capacity within the structures of gender, class, caste, and kinship – ‘the thick of social life’ (ibid.).
This paper draws upon an intergenerational, familial research design involving semi-structured interviews with father, mother, and their son and daughter (both in age above 25) in each of the eight sampled families in a community in rural Punjab. It reflects upon the relational processes shaping aspirations for taraqqi, including gendered norms and values as well as the judgement about the feasibility of such aspirations (Hart 2016:324) with further implications for resulting strategies. It situates schooling of young generations within such wants, desires, risk assessments and calculations about the familial and individual visions of future informing their notion of taraqqi. It also shows that the overall low social mobility for the poor, landless and those from low caste lowers their aspiration window for taraqqi (Ray 2003) with negative implications for educational decisions particularly in the absence of compulsory universal schooling and perception about economic returns to schooling mediated by social structures. It is argued that for achieving Sustainable Development Goals, educational policy needs to be informed by familial aspirations which are in turn reflective of wider social structure and economic relations that mediate educational experiences and outcomes.
Title: Meritocracy and Inequality in the lives of disadvantaged families in Singapore
The concept of ‘meritocracy’ is foundational to Singapore public policy. ‘Meritocracy’ is touted by the Singapore state as a lever for social mobility;at the core of the ‘meritocratic’ framework is the assumption that regardless of socio-economic background, a successful future might by attained through individual hard work and talent. The promise of equity-through-meritocracy, however, has been challenged, as it favours students who already have capital (Koh, 2014).
This paper explores how families – what Basil Bernstein calls the third re-contextualising field, after state and school – are navigating and responding to dominant education policy discourses. It argues that families are crucial pedagogic agents, whose views are often neglected in empirical policy studies. Thus, this paper draws on semi-structured and focus group interviews with twelve low-income, ethnic minority group families, to examine how ‘meritocracy’ is complexly, concretely experienced at the socio-economic margins of a ‘meritocratic’ state. To understand how state education policy messages are negotiated by families, Bernstein’s theoretical framework on re-contextualising fields is used. Bernstein identifies two types of re-contextualising fields: the Official Re-contextualising Field (ORF) (managed by the state) and Pedagogic Re-contextualising Fields (PRFs) (managed by other pedagogic agents, such as families). Re-contextualising fields mediate and modify messages as they ‘move’ from the original context of discursive production (ORF) to subsequent levels of discursive reproduction (PRFs) (Bernstein, 1990).
One initial finding is that policy (meritocratic) and parenting logics intersect in certain ways, as parents and children internalise responsibility for academic and life success;in the ‘strong’ state of Singapore, the ORF exerts ideological influence over the PRF of family. Yet, parents are not devoid of agency, and diverge with state policy logics in other ways. By providing an example of how policy and parenting logics relate, equity implications of Singapore’s ‘meritocratic’ framework are offered.
Title: Mothers’ strategies for their daughters’ schooling in rural Pakistan
This study highlights the importance of mothers’ strategies for their daughters’ education in rural Pakistan. Past literature has overlooked the key part that parents play in making education related choices for their children. In this regard the crucial role of mothers as they devise strategies for their daughters in scarce resources is also ignored. This study brings maternal influence on their daughters’ educational outcomes to the fore.
To illustrate this, I present data from four cases selected on the basis of maternal schooling status and strategies for their daughters’ education from rural Punjab, Pakistan. These data were collected by conducting semi-structured interviews with mothers, household-heads, daughters and other dominant decision-makers in the families. Drawing on the theoretical-perspectives of the Capabilities Approach I examine the environmental and social influences on these mothers to ascertain their freedom in making household decisions regarding their daughters’ schooling (Sen, 1999). To gain insights on individual capabilities the methodology learns from the theory of cooperative conflict (Sen, 1987) to ascertain how mothers internalise the familial support extended to them.
Preliminary analysis of these data shows that mothers respond differently by developing strategies depending on the availability of resources (maternal education being one of them), level of support and their personal histories. Contrary to the assumptions made by previous research education may not be the most influential resource that supports mothers’ in achieving better educational outcomes for their daughters. As demonstrated by the data, un-schooled mothers in the sample prove to be engaged in highly developed strategy and planning for their daughter’s education. These findings call for an alternative approach to sustainable development in which research and policy re-imagine the contributions of mothers regardless of their educational status and find ways of utilizing these strengths.
Making history speak: An intergenerational investigation of contemporary Chinese middle-class families pursuing overseas educational choice strategies
This study focuses on the experiences of education, at home and/or overseas, of three generations within contemporary Chinese middle-class families —including grandparents, parents and students —in order to capture an intimate and ‘up- close’ picture of the ways in which different generations of contemporary middle-class Chinese understand, conceptualize and respond to increasing pressures to consider and undertake higher education overseas. The three generations broadly span the following eras: Republican China (1911–1949), Maoist China (1949–1976) and the Reform era (1976–present). These three periods witnessed great political, educational and economic transformations. The three (middle-class, urban) cohorts this research investigates have been exposed to social forces specific to their generational identity and personal biography, their history of educational experience, and the extent of their own mobility within the Chinese context. Their individual views, opinions and feelings concerning mobility and overseas education vary, and a comparison of their experiences and views create new knowledge and contribute to the existing literature on international student mobility. The author argues that Chinese students’ international mobility in the twenty-first century is not merely a personal choice, nor exclusively about the student’s own wishes and aspirations. International student mobility is a strategy for Chinese families, that involves intergenerational and interpersonal negotiations, and results from its socio-cultural historical specificities, stratified Chinese society, capitalist market, political policies, and neoliberal subject formation.