Youth, work and education: the persistence of meritocracy.

Year: 2000

Author: COOPER, S

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As part of the EGSIE-Australia Youth Project, more than 600 students aged between 13 and 17 years completed a questionnaire which gauged their opinions on a broad range of factors relating to current and future issues within school, education and work. Among its findings, this survey shows that Australian young people believe very strongly in the notion of meritocracy, and the importance of educational success as the foundation for success as an adult. Most believed that things such as personal hard work, positive attitudes toward school, and personal ambition were key factors. Simultaneously, the students rated factors such as family background, race/ethnicity and social class as significantly less important influences upon educational success.

Such findings suggest that students are not only very aware of an ever increasing emphasis upon education and training across various sectors, but also that the locus of control pertaining to education and work success lies within the individual. The fact that these opinions strongly mirror the tenets of the current government's policies within the frameworks of education, labour market and welfare provisions, calls into question the government's use of rhetoric that suggests otherwise.