Understanding Education in Context

Assessment task 1- Written response to education policy debate (2000 words)

The task

This assessment task requires you to examine the education policy debate on the following question:

To what extent is a meritocracy a fair system for allocating opportunities in education?

To answer this question,focus on a specific aspect of education policy in one country, for example: Admission into Singaporean secondary schools, Examination system in China, or University entrance in Australia.

The ideas covered in the frst four weeks will help you answer the question.


In responding to the question, you must draw on the ideas about merit discussed in at least one of the following articles:

Keskiner, E.(2015)."Is it merit or cultural capital?"The role of parents during early tracking in Amsterdam and Strasbourg among descendants of immigrants from Turkey. Comparative Migration Studies, (i).

Mijs,J. (2016). The Unfulfllable Promise of Meritocracy: Three Lessons and Their Implications for Justice in Education [Article].SocialJustice Research,29(1),14-34.doi.org/10.1007/s11211-014- 0228-0

Owens,J.,& de St Croix,T. (2020). Engines of social mobility? Navigating meritocratic education discourse in an unequal society [Articlel. British Journal of Educational Studies,68(4), 403-424. doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2019.1708863

Sen,A.(2000). Merit and justice In K.Arrow,S.Bowles,&S.Durlauf(Eds.),Meritocracyand Economic Equality (pp. 5-16). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Please note,these articles examine different contexts, which may not be the same as the one you select. However, the articles will help you define terms such as'merit'and help you identify some of the key ideas.

You will need to cite least 10 academic sources (e.g. peer reviewed journal articles).This includes one of the articles listed above.

The majority of the literature you cite must be in English(at least 80 per cent). If you cite literature that is in a language other than English,you need to include a translation of the title in the reference list

Some texts that may be relevant:

Elford, G. (2016). Social Class, Merit and Equality of Opportunity in Education. Res Publica: AJournal of Legal and Social Philosophy, 22(3), 267-284.

Donovan, F. Living class in a 'meritocratic' Australia: The burdens of class and choice on young people's end-of-school transitions. Journal of Sociology, 54(3), 396.

Lardier, D.T., Herr, K. G., Barrios, V. R., Garcia-Reid, P.,& Reid,R. J. (2019). Merit in Meritocracy: Uncovering the Myth of Exceptionality and Self-Reliance Through the Voices of Urban Youth of Color. Education & Urban Society, 51(4), 474-500.doi:10.1177/0013124517727583

Li,A.(2019). Unfulfilled promise of educational meritocracy? Academic ability and China's urban- rural gap in access to higher education.Chinese Sociological Review, 51(2),115-146.

Sandel, M.(2020). The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good?:Allen Lane

Please pay attention to the country or countries discussed in the texts you use. The findings from a study based in one country may only be partly relevant to the situation in another.

Leigh,A. (2O13). The Economics and Politics of Teacher Merit Pay. CESifo economic studies: CESifo,a ioint initigtive of the Universityv of Munich's Center for Economic Studies and the Ifo Institute. 59(1).1-33 doi:10.1093/cesifo/ifsO07

Lim, L., & Tan, M. (2018). Culture, Pedagogy and Equity in a Meritocratic Education System: Teachers' Work and the Politics of Culture in Singapore. Curriculum Inquiry, 48(2), 184-202.


The structure of your response must follow this outline, which includes a guide to the number of words in each section:

1. Abstract (approximately 200 words)

This abstract should provide a clear summary of your answer to the question: To what extent is a meritocracya fair system for allocating opportunities in education?it will also explain the context for your answer.

2. Introduction (approximately 100 words)

Introduce the question and the context you will examine.

Briefly explain why this is of interest (e.g. There is a debate about whether the ATAR should be used to allocate university places in Australia; concerns about the increasingly level of pressure on young people)

3.Key ideas & terms(approx.100 words,this section can be in dot-point)

Identify 2 or 3 key ideas that are important for your response to the question.One of the key ideas will be 'merit' others could be: 'equity,'social and cultural capital, 'choice'). These ideas are yourkey terms, which you need to define citing the relevant academic literature.

You may need to defne one or two other terms that are specific to the context in which you are discussing the question. For example, ATAR or gaokao.

4. Context (approximately 500 words)

Briefly discuss the context (e.g. how students enter Singaporean secondary schools), focussing on the role merit plays and how merit is understood.

5.The issues (approx. 200 words, this section can be in dot point)

Briefly explain 2 or 3 issues that are central to yourexamination of the question in the context you have chosen. These issues are important for your response to the question.Some examples: increasing levels of inequality; pressure on students; and/or the impact of a selection or examination process on school curriculum

6. Your argument in response to the question (approximately 800 words)

Present your argument in support of your response to the question.Your argument may be nuanced

Draw on the literature to support each of the points you make.

Your argument will be stronger if you take account of opposing views so make sure you draw on some literature that you do not completely agree with. For example,your main argument may be that a merit-based examination system in country Xentrenches and exacerbates inequality. However, you may also consider the view that merit-based systems are fairer than the alternatives. You would then briefly explain the problem with this view or why it does not apply in this context. 7. Conclusion (approximately 100 words)

Your conclusion should restate the main points of your argument supporting your answer to the question.

8.References (not included in the word count)-You must use correct APA 7th referencing, for

more information https:/library.unimelb.edu.au/recite ez

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