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Sociology Assignment: The Meritocracy Myth in Education System


Task: In “The Meritocracy Myth”, McNamee and Miller identify several ‘non-merit’ factors which “suppress, neutralize, or even negate the effects of merit and create barriers to individual mobility”.
Write sociology assignment discussing the argument that meritocracy is a myth in relation to the education system in Australia. In doing so, explain the ‘non-merit factors’ which can influence a student’s educational outcomes. Use research to support your discussion.


The report on sociology assignment will discuss why meritocracy is considered a myth concerning the education system in Australia. Furthermore, the report will also discuss the non-merit factors that can influence the students' educational outcome in an educational institution. This is because McNamee and Miller have identified several non-merit factors that influence the mobility of an individual. Therefore, these factors will be used to identify the influence on the educational outcome of the students.

Theoretical Discussion
Meritocracy is a concept which states that an individual can achieve upward social mobility based on his merits and not based on the social class he belongs to. Meritocracy is considered a myth because, despite the upward social mobility irrespective of the social class, there is a wide disparity due to the class of the people(Cuevas & Montalvo, 2019). The report's primary aim is to discuss how non-merit factors create a barrier to individual upward mobility despite their mobility. In the present time, the people are focused on the meritocracy ideal. However, despite this value, meritocracy remains a myth in the education system because the education system is based on the pattern in which income, power, and other resources are divided in the society, and merit barely plays any significant role in the educational result. The deregulation of the educational system has given rise to the concepts like self-interest, individualism, competitiveness, and anti-statism in the minds of the students and the education providers. This is why meritocracy is viewed as a myth in the educational system because their education system is influenced by students' income and social class studying in educational institutions.

Answer to the Questions
Meritocracy Myth in the Education System

Meritocracy is a myth in the Australian education system because the indigenous students of Australia still experience unequal treatment when it comes to education (Douglas, 2019). There remains a wide educational gap between the students coming from influential families and the indigenous students.There is widespread discrimination towards indigenous students in Australia, which negatively affects the students' results. The students were seen to be remaining absent from school, which hampers their curriculum, and they perform poorly in their academics. This shows how meritocracy becomes a myth in the Australian education system because the educational students do not give the indigenous students an equal opportunity. Along with that, the education providers are also seen to be contributing to this racial discrimination that hampers the mental and physical health of the students. This can be supported by using the conflict theory, which states that differences in the availability of education are caused by a difference in race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and so on. When these indigenous students go to school, they are bullied, abused verbally and physically due to their racial, cultural, and ethnic difference (Kairuz, 2021). These abuses have a lasting impact on the students' minds because they cannot develop skills that are useful for their future. This causes them to have a disadvantage in their life, and they cannot be capable enough to compete in the world without proper skill and knowledge.

Non-Merit Factors that Affects the Education
The non-merit factors are the traits and aspects related to the personal and social factors that determine the performance of the individual (Lawson, 2020). These factors completely ignore the elements of merit in the students, and these factors have a significant influence on the educational outcomes of the students. Following are the non-merit factors that influence the educational development of the students:

Cultural Background
The first non-merit factor influencing the educational outcome is the cultural background because it affects the learning behavior and the availability of education to the students. The cultural background shapes the family structure where the students will grow up. This influences the educational outcome because the family structure is the primary and significant impact on how the students will move forward with their education. The students' family background significantly influences their academic achievements, which involves the student's families. The students belong to families that are influential and possess more power in society. They can have easy access to education, and they can avail different facilities through which they can improve their educational outcome. However, this is not the case for minority groups as they are discriminated against and not given equal education opportunities (Stephane, 2017).

Family Income
The second non-merit factor is the student's family income, as it significantly impacts the education level that the students can achieve. An increased family income can improve the student's education level as they can easily avail of educational facilities. The students who belong to low-income families experience difficulties promoting their social status (Fomby & Kravitz, 2019). They cannot provide sufficient facilities so that their children can improve their educational outcomes. This factor makes meritocracy a myth in the educational system. Despite the students being exceptionally capable in academics, they might not get an opportunity to pursue higher education due to the lack of financial shortage. Higher education in Australia is expensive. This fact proves to be a disadvantage for students from a lower-income class because they cannot afford higher education, which ultimately affects their educational outcomes.

Political Influence of the Wealthy
In a democracy, every student has equal rights, and they get equal opportunities to enhance their educational performance. However, in reality, the student who belongs to the class and family with more resources and has more power in the system can excel in the academic field. When the people with economic power start to influence the political structure of the county, the true meaning of democracy is compromised, and along with that, the true meaning of meritocracy also vanishes. The educational system cannot allow the students based on their merits and potential, but they will be provided opportunities based on how politically influential their family is(Taylor, 2019). Therefore, the political influence of the wealthy class in society determines the educational outcome of the students pursuing their higher education.

Cost of Education
Cost of education is another factor that influences the students' educational outcome because the higher the level of education, the higher the cost of the tuition fees. The costs involved in education are direct and indirect; the direct costs are incurred by the students on the purchase of tools through which the teaching is implemented, such as learning tools, transportation costs, teacher's salaries, and so on. The indirect costs are the ones incurred by the students when they purchase stationeries or their pocket money. These costs affect the student's educational outcomes because they will not get access to the learning tools if they do not incur these costs. Therefore, the cost incurred while pursuing education also influences the outcome produced by the students (Sarpong, Curry & Williams, 2017).

School Resources
The Australian education system's performance has been a primary issue and a topic for political debate. The easy availability of school resources for the students at the time needs is the major non-merit factor influencing the educational outcome. If the students do not get any appropriate resources to clear their doubt, it results in lower performance that hampers the students' educational outcome. With the availability of high-quality school resources, educational institutions can improve the students' educational outcomes. The school resources can be measured by the student-teacher ratio, salaries received by the teachers, and expenses per student. Suppose there are more students than the teachers in a school. It becomes difficult for the teacher to impart education effectively, which will affect the students' educational outcomes (Rathmann, 2018).

Critical Evaluation
The above analysis and discussions can be deemed appropriate because, according to Temple et al. (2018), there is widespread discrimination in Australia based on ethnicity, disabilities, and other demography. Due to these discriminations, many people are at a disadvantage of not getting an appropriate and quality education. When these people are restricted from getting educational facilities, then meritocracy becomes a myth because the concept of meritocracy states that students receive opportunities based on their merits. However, suppose there is widespread discrimination in the country due to the difference in the different demographics. In that case, it cannot be said that the county is applying the concept of meritocracy. In the Australian educational system, the concept of meritocracy is expressed in terms of the Australian values of a fair go. This value states that each student should be given equal opportunity related to education. Such initiative has been undertaken by the Australian education system so that they can fight racial discrimination and all the students get equal opportunity for availing quality education.

The report can be concluded by stating that meritocracy is beneficial for all the students because it provides them with equal education opportunities based on their merit. However, this does not happen because many educational institutions offer opportunities based on the non-merit factor. Factor such as power and social status affects the availability of education to the student in the educational system. The concept of meritocracy is considered a myth in the Australian education system because there is widespread discrimination towards indigenous students in Australia. The non-merit factors such as cultural background, family income, the political influence of wealth, cost of education, and school resources influence the students' educational outcome.

Daniel F. Sarpong, India Y. Curry, and Melinda Williams. 2017. n.d. “Assessment of Knowledge of Critical Cardiovascular Risk Indicators among College Students: Does Stage of Education Matter?” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 14(3):250–50. Retrieved July 15, 2021

Heather Douglas. 2019. “Indigenous Australians and Legal Education: Looking to the Future.” Legal Education Review (20191118). Retrieved July 15, 2021 Kairuz, Camila A., Lisa M. Casanelia, Keziah Bennett-Brook, Julieann Coombes, and Uday Narayan Yadav. 2021. “Impact of Racism and Discrimination on Physical and Mental Health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Living in Australia: A Systematic Scoping Review.” Bmc Public Health 21(1). Retrieved July 15, 2021

Lawson, Hal A. 2020. “The Physical Education System As a Consequential Social Determinant.” Quest 72(1):72–84.

Paula Fomby and Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz. 2019. “Family Systems and Parents’ Financial Support for Education in Early Adulthood.” Demography 56(5):1875–97.

Rathmann, Katharina, Ludwig Bilz, Klaus Hurrelmann, Wieland Kiess, and Matthias Richter. 2018. "Is Being a 'Small Fish in a Big Pond' Bad for Students' Psychosomatic Health? A Multilevel Study on the Role of Class-Level School Performance." Bmc Public Health 18(1):1–13. Retrieved July 15, 2021

Stephane M. Shepherd, Rosa Hazel Delgado, Juanita Sherwood, and Yin Paradies. 2017. “The Impact of Indigenous Cultural Identity and Cultural Engagement on Violent Offending.” Bmc Public Health 18(1):50–50. Retrieved July 15, 2021

Taylor, Emma V., Alex Lalovic, and Sandra C. Thompson. 2019. “Beyond Enrolments: A Systematic Review Exploring the Factors Affecting the Retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Students in the Tertiary Education System.” International Journal for Equity in Health 18(1):1–19. Retrieved July 15, 2021

Temple, Jeromey B., Margaret Kelaher, and Ruth Williams. 2018. “Discrimination and Avoidance Due to Disability in Australia: Evidence from a National Cross Sectional Survey.” Bmc Public Health 18(1):1–13. Retrieved July 15, 2021

Yazmi?n Cuevas and Karla Rangel Montalvo. 2019. “Analysis of the Teaching Career in Primary Education in Mexico: Between Credentialism and Meritocracy.” Education Policy Analysis Archives. Retrieved July 15, 2021


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