Educational potential, underachievement, and cultural pluralism

Donald Gillies* (Corresponding Author), Education in the North

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    The term ‘underachievement’ is widespread in modern educational discourse, invoked most frequently in relation to a perceived failure to reach ‘potential’. In this paper, it is suggested that such terms, though widely used, are highly problematic, masking ideological assumptions which concern socially constructed, culturally sensitive, subjective, and relative matters. In fact, underachievement is most often used to mean low academic attainment and the paper argues that this is already better understood in terms of well-known factors such as prior attainment, socioeconomic disadvantage, and systemic biases.
    paper also suggests that there is a danger of pathologising the low attainer when in fact it may be the system which is failing the learner. Further, the paper argues that the monologic focus on individual academic attainment as the sole measure of ‘achievement’ fails to take account of alternative cultural values and risks the charge of cultural imperialism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages22
    JournalEducation in the North
    Volume16
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008

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