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A Right to Education for All: The Meaning of Equal Educational Opportunities

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The debate on the social function of schooling is as old as the idea of schooling itself. In those discussions, the concept of equal opportunities is often referred to as a means or a strategy to pursue social equality. This article discusses four conceptions of equality, each referring to different notions of justice. In meritocratic, distributive and social equality of opportunities, the conceptualisation of equality is deduced from a particular societal order. The subject-oriented equality position, as an alternative, focuses on the consequences of these approaches at an individual level. A closer look at the everyday social practices of minority groups (in this case irregular migrants), is very useful in order to gain insight into these consequences. Are equal opportunities as a conceptual tool for educational policy making helpful to realise the ‘universal right to education’ that we are willing to offer to all? Conclusions will be drawn on how this universal right can be turned from merely a legal provision into a vivid practice in an educationally more promising way.


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Affiliations: 1: Department of Educational Theory, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Ghent University,


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