Education Differentiation Within Contemporary Globalization: A Meta-ethnographic Analysis of the Conferral of Power and Status in Modern Education Systems

  • Dennis Beach


This chapter explores the issues lifted in Chap.  1 against a background comprised by international research. It has been composed by firstly searching for ethnographic research on education differentiation and social reproduction, and then making a meta-ethnographic analysis of the research products that were found. There are some strong reasons for this choice of methods. They are firstly that ethnography is most often understood and used as a form of research that aims at gaining inside and producing a deeper insight about a certain people’s knowledge and social culture, which it then tries to represent in writing in a manner that provides extremely valuable local knowledge that cannot be produced by other means but that can be carefully generalised, though not through standard statistical forms of generalisation. The anticipation is that by learning from everyday interactions and informants it can bring new knowledge to bear from different and emphatically bottom up perspectives. The value of an ethnographic approach has been identified by Bourdieu and associates in 1963 (Bourdieu, Darbel, Rivet and Siebel) and 1973 (Bourdieu, Chamboredon and Passeron); as vastly important to social theorizing, following for instance Durkheim. It involves a systematic historical documentation and scientific analysis of a culture or cultural phenomena.

Meta-ethnography takes advantage of the knowledge produced by detailed insider ethnographic accounts by making cross-case translations of meaning from a specifically selected collection of ethnographic research on related issues to produce an interpretive inductive synthesis from these ethnographic research reports. The intention is one of not merely summarising evidence on the topic of interest, but also trying to arrive at a new interpretation of the meanings that have been generated about that topic.

Using meta-ethnography the chapter identifies again some of the points made concerning education selection and differentiation and social and cultural reproduction in education in Chap.  1. It notes that although there has been a significant global expansion of education in recent decades, not the least concerning the education of young women from poor backgrounds and children of the poor generally, its effects on social equality have been limited, as the gendered social class, ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds of pupils have continued to have a strong influence on what kind of participation pupils enjoy in education settings and which levels of performance and educational success they attain. Children’s educational opportunities and achievements are clearly circumscribed by class background, changes in educational selectivity over time are of a very limited range and the social selectivity of systems of education has remained strong.

In line with the work on structures of injustice by Iris Marion Young, primarily two forms of disabling constraints are identified as operating consistently across international regimes: oppression and domination. As Young points out, these constraints include distributive patterns but they also involve matters that cannot easily be assimilated to the logic of distribution, such as decision-making procedures, division of labor, and culture.


  1. Apple, M. W. (2004). Ideology and Curriculum (25th Anniversary 3rd ed). New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bagley, C., & Beach, D. (2015). The Marginalization of Social Justice as a Form of Knowledge in Teacher Education in England. Policy Futures in Education, 13(4), 424–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bakunin, M. (1869, August 14). Equal Opportunity in Education, Egalité.
  4. Beach, D. (2017a). Personalisation and the Education Commodity: A Meta-Ethnographic Analysis. Ethnography and Education, 12(2), 148–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beach, D. (2017b). Whose Justice Is this! Capitalism, Class and Education Justice and Inclusion in the Nordic Countries: Race, Space and Class History. Education Review. Scholar
  6. Beach, D., & Dovemark, M. (2007). Education and the Commodity Problem: Ethnographic Investigations of Creativity and Performativity in Swedish Schools. London: Tufnell Press.Google Scholar
  7. Beach, D., & Dovemark, M. (2009). Making Right Choices: An Ethnographic Investigation of Creativity and Performativity in Four Swedish Schools. Oxford Review of Education, 35(6), 689–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beach, D., & Dovemark, M. (2011). Twelve Years of Upper-Secondary Education in Sweden: The Beginnings of a Neo-liberal Policy Hegemony. Educational Review, 63(3), 313–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beach, D., & Lunneblad, J. (2011). Ethnographic Investigations of Issues of Race in Scandinavian Education Research. Ethnography and Education, 6, 29–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beach, D., & Puaca, G. (2014). Changing Higher Education by Reform: Education Choices and Student Identities. European Journal of Higher Education, 4(1), 67–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Beach, D., & Sernhede, S. (2011). From Learning to Labour to Learning for Marginality: School Segregation and Marginalisation in Swedish Suburbs. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 32(2), 257–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Beach, D., & Sernhede, O. (2012). Learning Processes and Social Mobilization in a Swedish Metropolitan Hip-Hop Collective. Urban Education, 47, 939–958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Beach, D., & Sernhede, O. (2013). On Creativity and Resistance in Nordic Youth Culture on the Margins. In G. Gudmundsson, V. Vestel, & D. Beach (Eds.), Excluded Youth in Itself and for Itself: Young People from Immigrant Families in Scandinavia (pp. 61–84). London: Tufnell.Google Scholar
  14. Beach, D., Dovemark, M., Schwartz, A., & Öhrn, E. (2013). Complexities and Contradictions of Educational Inclusion: A Meta-Ethnographic Analysis. Nordic Studies in Education, 33(2), 254–268.Google Scholar
  15. Beach, D., Bagley, C., & Marques da Silva, S. (2018). Ethnography of Education: Thinking Forward Looking Back. In D. Beach, C. Bagley, & S. Marques da Silva (Eds.), The Handbook of Ethnography of Education. London/New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bhatti, G. (2011). Outsiders or Insiders? Identity, Educational Success and Muslim Young Men in England. Ethnography and Education, 6(1), 81–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Börjesson, M. (2016). Från Likvärdighet Till Marknad: En Studie av Offentligt och Privat Inflytande över Skolans Styrning i Svensk Utbildningspolitik 1969–1999. Örebro: Örebro Studies in Education 52.Google Scholar
  18. Bouakaz, L. (2007). Parental Involvement in School: What Promotes and What Hinders Parental Involvement in an Urban School (Doctoral Thesis). Malmö: Malmö University Electronic Publishing.
  19. Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J. C. (1970/1977). Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Boyce Davies, C. (2008). Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones. Durham/London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Broady, D., & Börjesson, M. (2008). En social karta över gymnasieskolan, pp. 24–35 i Ulf P Lundgren (red.), Individ - samhälle - lärande. Åtta exempel på utbildningsvetenskaplig forskning, Vetenskapsrådets rapportserie 2008:2.Google Scholar
  22. Brossard Børhaug, F. (2013). Conflicting Anti-Racist Values in Norwegian and French Civic Education: To What Extent Can the Curriculum Discourses Empower Minority Youth? In G. Gudmundsson, D. Author, & V. Vestel (Eds.), Excluded Youth in Itself and for Itself: Young People from Immigrant Families in Scandinavia. London: Tufnell Press.Google Scholar
  23. Charles, C. (2014). Elite Girls’ Schooling, Social Class and Sexualised Popular Culture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Cole, M. (2003). Might it be in the Practice that It Fails to Succeed? A Marxist Critique of Claims for Postmodernism and Poststructuralism as Forces for Social Change and Social Justice. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 24(4), 487–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Delamont, S. (1989). Knowledgeable Women. Structuralism and the Reproduction of Elites. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Dewey, S. (2006). Imperial Designs, Post-Colonial Replications: Class and Power at Cathedral and John Connon School in Bombay. Ethnography and Education, 1(2), 215–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dovemark, M., & Beach, D. (2015). Academic Work on a Back-Burner: Habituating Students in the Upper-Secondary School Towards Marginality and a Life in the Precariat. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 19(6), 583–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dovemark, M., & Beach, D. (2016). From Learning to Labour to Learning for Precarity. Ethnography and Education, 11(2), 174–188. Scholar
  29. Englund, T. (red). (1996). Utbildningspolitiskt systemskifte? Stockholm: HLS Förlag.Google Scholar
  30. Erlandson, P., & Beach, D. (2014). Ironising with Intelligence. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(4), 598–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fordham, S., & Ogbu, J. U. (1986). Black Students’ School Success: Coping with the “Burden of ‘Acting White’”. Urban Review, 18(3), 176–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Forsey, M., Davies, S., & Walford, G. (Eds.). (2008). The Globalisation of School Choice? Oxford: Symposium Books.Google Scholar
  33. Francis, D. (2017). Troubling the Teaching and Learning of Gender and Sexuality Diversity in South African Education. Journal of LGBT Youth, 14(4), 359–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gaztambide-Fernández, R. A. (2009). The Best of the Best: Becoming Elite at an American Boarding School. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Gilbertson, A. (2014). ‘Mugging Up’ Versus ‘Exposure’: International Schools and Social Mobility in Hyderabad, India. Ethnography and Education, 9(2), 210–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gillborn, D. (1990). ‘Race’, Ethnicity, and Education: Teaching and Learning in Multi-ethnic Schools. London: Unwin Hyman.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gobbo, F. (2011a). Racism, ‘Race’ and Ethnographic Research in Multicultural Italy. Ethnography and Education, 6(1), 9–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gobbo, F. (2011b). Ethnographic Research in Multicultural Educational Contexts as a Contribution to Intercultural Dialogue. Policy Futures in Education, 9(1), 35–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Gröning, I. (2006). Språk, interaktion och lärandei mångfaldens skola (Doctoral Thesis). Uppsala: Institutionen för Nordiska Språk.Google Scholar
  40. Gudmundsson, G. (2013). Introduction: Excluded Youth in Itself and for Itself - Young People from Immigrant Families in Scandinavia. In G. Gudmundsson, D. Author, & V. Vestel (Eds.), Excluded Youth in Itself and for Itself: Young People from Immigrant Families in Scandinavia. London: Tufnell Press.Google Scholar
  41. Howard, A. (2008). Learning Privilege: Lessons of Power and Identity in Affluent Schooling. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Johnson, E. (2009). Schooling as a Regime of Equality and Reproducing Difference in an Afro-Ecuadorian Region. Ethnography and Education, 4(2), 147–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Jonsson, A.-C., & Beach, D. (2013). A Problem of Democracy: Stereotypical Notions of Intelligence and Identity in College Preparatory Academic Programmes in the Swedish Upper Secondary School. Nordic Studies in Education, 32, 50–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Jonsson, A.-C., & Beach, D. (2015). Institutional Discrimination: Stereotypes and Social Reproduction of “Class” in the Swedish Upper-Secondary School. Social Psychology of Education, 18(4), 703–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kallstenius, J. (2010). De mångkulturella innerstadsskolorna. Om skolval, segregation och utbildningsstrategier i Stockholm (Academic Thesis). Stockholm University: Acta Universitatis Stockholminesis.Google Scholar
  46. Kenway, J., & Langmead, D. (2017). Elite Schools and 21st-Century Class-Making. Education and Society Online Publication, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education: doi: Scholar
  47. Kenway, J., Fahey, J., Epstein, D., Aaron Koh, A., McCarthy, C., & Rizvi, F. (2016). Class Choreographies: Elite Schools and Globalization. London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  48. Kenway, J., Fahey, J., Epstein, D., Koh, A., McCarthy, C., & Rizvi, F. (2018). Multi-sited Global Ethnography and Elite Schools: A Methodological Entrée. In D. Beach, C. Bagley, & S. Marques da Silva (Eds.), The Handbook of Ethnography of Education. London/New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  49. Koh, A., & Kenway, J. (2016). Introduction: Reading the Dynamics of Educational Privilege Through a Spatial Lens. In A. Koh & J. Kenway (Eds.), Elite Schooling: Multiple Geographies of Privilege. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  50. Lacey, C. (1970). Hightown Grammar: The School as a Social. System. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Lindbäck, J., & Sernhede, O. (2013). Divided City – Divided School: Upper Secondary School Students and Urban Space. In G. Gudmundsson, D. Author, & V. Vestel (Eds.), Excluded Youth in Itself and for Itself: Young People from Immigrant Families in Scandinavia. London: Tufnell Press.Google Scholar
  52. Lundahl, L., Erixon Arreman, I., Holm, A.-S., & Lundström, U. (2014). Gymnasiet som marknad. Umeå: Boréa.Google Scholar
  53. Lundberg, O. (2015). On Cultural Racism and School Learning: An Ethnographic Study (Göteborg Studies in Educational Science). Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothenburgensis.Google Scholar
  54. Mac An Ghail, M. (1988). Young, Gifted, and Black: Student-Teacher Relations in the Schooling of Black Youth. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Maisuria, A. (2016). Obscured Inequality and Feasible Equity: An Exploratory Study of Life History, Consciousness and Practices of Social Class in Contemporary Sweden (Unpublished PhD Thesis). University College London, Institute of Education.Google Scholar
  56. Maisuria, A. (2017) Class Struggle in Cultural Formation in Contemporary Times: A Focus on the Theoretical Importance of Antonio Gramsci and the Organic Intellectualism of Russell Brand and Pablo Iglesias. In McLaren, L & Monzo, L. (Eds.), Revolution and Education Special Issue Knowledge Cultures Journal, Addleton Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  57. McLaren, P. (1994). Life in Schools: An Introduction to Critical Pedagogy in the Foundations of Education. New York/London: Longman.Google Scholar
  58. Millstein, D., & Clemente, A. (2018). Latin American Educational Ethnography. In D. Beach, C. Bagley, & S. Marques da Silva (Eds.), The Handbook of Ethnography of Education. London/New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  59. Modiba, M., & Stewart, S. (2018). Ethnography and Education in an African Context. In D. Beach, C. Bagley, & S. Marques da Silva (Eds.), The Handbook of Ethnography of Education. London/New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  60. Nilsson, J., & Bunar, N. (2016). Educational Responses to Newly Arrived Students in Sweden: Understanding the Structure and Influence of PostMigration Ecology. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 60(4), 399–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Nylund, M. (2012). The Relevance of Class in Education Policy and Research: The Case of Sweden’s Vocational Education. Education Inquiry, 3(4), 591–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Nylund, M. (2013). Yrkesutbildning, klass och kunskap. Doctoral dissertation, Örebro universitet, Örebro.Google Scholar
  63. Persson, B. (1998). Den motsägelsefulla specialpedagogiken: Motiveringar, genomförande och konsekvenser (Academic Thesis). (Specialpedagogiska rapporter 11). Göteborg: Institutionen för special pedagogic, Göteborgs universitet.Google Scholar
  64. Posecznick, A. (2013). Constructing Legitimacy in a Non-Selective, American College: Unpacking Symbolic Capital Through Ethnographic Moments. Ethnography and Education, 8(1), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rasmussen, A. (2012). The Use of Talent Classes to Reproduce Differentiated Education. Ethnography and Education, 7(1), 93–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Reay, D., David, M. E., & Ball, S. J. (2005). Degrees of Choice: Social Class, Race and Gender in Higher Education. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.Google Scholar
  67. Rizvi, F., & Lingard, B. (2006). Globalisation and the Changing Nature of the OECD’s Educational Work. In H. Lauder, P. Brown, J.-A. Dillabough, & A. H. Halsey (Eds.), Education, Globalization and Social Change (pp. 247–260). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Salokangas, M., Chapman, C., & Beach, D. (2016). Independent State-Funded Schools and System Change: Addressing Educational Equity. In D. Beach & A. Dyson (Eds.), Equity and Education in Cold Climates. London: Tufnell Press.Google Scholar
  69. Schwartz, A. (2013). Pedagogik, plats och prestationer: en etnografisk studie om en skola i förorten (Gothenburg studies in educational sciences; 340). Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.Google Scholar
  70. Seddon, T. (2003). Framing Justice: Challenges for Research. Journal of Education Policy, 18(3), 229–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sernhede, O. (2007). AlieNation is My Nation. Om Hip hop och unga mäns utanförskap i det Nya Sverige. Stockholm: Ordfront.Google Scholar
  72. Sewell, T. (1997). Black Masculinities and Schooling: How Black Boys Survive Modern Schooling. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.Google Scholar
  73. Sullivan, A., & Heath, A. (2003). Intakes and Examination Results at State and Private Schools. In G. Walford (Ed.), British Private Schools: Research on Policy and Practice. London: Woburn Press.Google Scholar
  74. Tesfahuney, M. (1998). Imag(in)ing the Other(s). Migration, Racism and the Discursive Constructions of Migrants. Uppsala: Uppsala Universitet.Google Scholar
  75. Tickle, L. (1983). One Spell of Ten Minutes or Five Spells of Two? Teacher-Pupil Encounters in Art and Design. In A. Hargreaves & P. Woods (Eds.), Classrooms and Staffrooms – The Sociology of Teachers and Teaching (pp. 130–146). London: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  76. Vaahtera, T., Niemi, A. M., Lappalainen, S., & Beach, D. (2017). Troubling Educational Cultures: Introduction. In T. Vaahtera, A. M. Niemi, S. Lappalainen, & D. Beach (Eds.), Troubling Educational Cultures in the Nordic Countries. London: Tufnell Press.Google Scholar
  77. Wakeford, J. (1969). The Cloistered Elite. A Sociological Analysis of the English Boarding School. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  78. Walford, G. (1986). Life in Public Schools. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  79. Walford, G. (Ed.). (1989). Private Schools in TenCountries: Policy and Practice. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  80. Walford, G. (Ed.). (1991). Private Schooling: Tradition, Change and Diversity. London: Paul Chapman.Google Scholar
  81. Walford, G. (Ed.). (2003). British Private Schools: Research on Policy and Practice. London: Woburn Press.Google Scholar
  82. Walford, G. (2009). Private Schools in England. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 55(5), 716–731.Google Scholar
  83. Walker, M. (2006). Towards a Capability-Based Theory of Socialjustice for Education Policy-Making. Journal of Education Policy, 21(2), 163–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Weis, L., & Fine, M. (2012). Critical Bifocality and Circuits of Privilege: Expanding Critical Ethnographic Theory and Design. Harvard Educational Review, 82(2), 173–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Weis, L., Cippollone, K., & Jenkins, H. (2014). Class Warfare: Class, Race and College Admissions in Top Tier Secondary Schools. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Wiborg, S. (2015). Privatizing Education: Free School Policy in Sweden and England. Comparative Education Review, 59(3), 473–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Williams, R. H. (1973). Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory. New Left Review, 1(82), 3.Google Scholar
  88. Williams, R. H. (1977). Marxism and Literature. Marxist Introductions Series. Toronto: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  89. Willis, P. (1977). Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs. Farnborough: Saxon House.Google Scholar
  90. Willis, P. (2000). The Ethnographic Imagination. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  91. Wright, C. (1992). Race Relations in the Primary School. London: David Fulton Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis Beach
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Education and Special EducationUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden

Personalised recommendations