Schools, examinations and social power: Structuring access to tertiary education through academic success in Botswana

Year: 2008

Author: Polelo, Mino

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper seeks to examine achievement as a factor that determines how students navigate their way into Tertiary Education (TE) institutions. On the basis of a survey of first year tertiary education entrants and student funding data for TE, it shows that there is a relationship between students' academic achievement and other social variables such as socio-economic status (SES), school location and school type. As such, achievement is mediated by students' home origins and the schools they attend, which in turn significantly shape the routes they take into TE institutions. It is through this process that low SES students populate the non-higher education stream of TE in Botswana while their high SES background counterparts congregate in the higher education (HE) stream. The recruitment patterns of Botswana's TE therefore show that the scale is tilted in favour of privileged social groups. It is a system that functions as an elite formation agency. The system replicates and reinforces the larger social system. The TE system, an agency that propels individuals and groups to different social positions in the socio-economic hierarchy, is implicated in the construction of this elitism. The recruitment patterns of Botswana's TE system, however, are not different from those of the rest of the developing world. But the gender gap in access to different fields of study seems to be narrow. Nevertheless, access to Science, Engineering and Technology and Computer Science/ICT programmes reflect gender imbalances.

Keywords: HED- Higher Education