More than a socio-economic variable: family strategies of educational advantage within Germany and Australia

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Doecke, Esther ORCID: 0000-0003-0896-021X (2019) More than a socio-economic variable: family strategies of educational advantage within Germany and Australia. PhD thesis, University of Melbourne.


This thesis explores how the discrete education structures in the German and Australian context inform the strategies adopted by families, while also taking into account how family strategies reinforce the structures as well. This is in contrast to a passive construction of how families mediate student achievement, where the influence of families is too often distilled into a socio-economic variable, which can imply that the structures and processes inbuilt into education systems happen to families, as if there is no family action involved whatsoever. Families are active agents and data suggests that there is an increasing inclination to position their children into more favourable positions within education systems partly as a reflection of the broader dimensions of social and economic life and a generalized state of anxiety concerning the ability of schools to meet their children’s needs. This work identifies the strategies used within Germany and Australia and their interplay with contextual features of the education system, employing a common framework to study each jurisdiction. It also considers the diverse structures of education at a national level, and how parents mobilize educational strategies of choice within Germany and Australia. It adopts a case-study approach to investigate how strategies of educational advantage are actually more reflective of a localized context, as opposed to a national picture. Other strategies, including tutoring and homework assistance, are also identified. Overall this study provides a more complex and differentiated account than is currently available of why it is so necessary to study families via a comparative approach, including the expectations and strategies they operationalize to support their children’s education. The role of families is a vitally important dimension in explaining how education systems function. The focus on family strategies of educational advantage – uncovers crucial supportive mechanisms which can be overlooked in other studies. One key shared common characteristic to both systems is the predominance of the academic curriculum. Drawing on the comparative observations, key implications in terms of reforms for both countries to realize greater equity are identified. Any advances towards equity in education systems involves improving access to the academic curriculum to more young people and supporting them by making it more accessible. Therefore, Germany should continue to alleviate their practices of academic selection and Australia should reorientate to being less socially selective.

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Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Official URL
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1301 Education Systems
Current > Division/Research > Centre for International Research on Education Systems (CIRES)
Keywords Education, families, Australia, Germany, educational advantage
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