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Education systems, aspiration and learning in remote rural settings

Through ethnographic research with young people in remote rural areas of Lesotho, India and Laos, this project has investigated the processes through which schooling shapes young people's aspirations, and how young people's aspirations shape their engagement with schooling and the learning they achieve.

Although there have been major advances in school enrolment in the past two decades, the outcomes of education are often poor, especially among girls, young people from indigenous groups and ethnic minorities, those of lower socio-economic status and in remote rural areas. The World Bank and other globally influential agencies have recently been promoting the view that this is partly due to the limited aspirations of such children and their parents. There is certainly some evidence that disadvantaged groups have lower aspirations, and consequently achieve less in school.

Yet paradoxically, there is also evidence that many youths from structurally disadvantaged groups have unattainably high aspirations, a situation that leads to disillusionment and large numbers of young people leaving school without the skills and knowledge to participate in rural livelihoods which they see as representing the failure of their aspirations.

There are two key problems with much of the current academic and policy discourse concerning education and aspiration. First, the conceptualisation of aspiration is very narrow. Interventions aimed at 'raising aspiration' assume it is one-dimensional, yet aspirations may be more or less concrete, more or less stable; they are emotionally imbued and value laden and may relate to very different types of imagined future.

Second, little is known of the processes through which school systems shape young people's aspirations, or of how young people's aspirations shape either their engagement with schooling or the learning they achieve. Aspiration is known to be produced in complex ways, in relation to broad-scale (even global) social and economic situations as well as family and community relationships. How these play out in schools requires further study.  

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Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Professor Nicola Ansell

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Project last modified 23/05/2022