Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Educational inequalities and Ukrainian orphans' future pathways: Social reproduction or transformation through the hidden curriculum?
by Korzh, Alla, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2013, 309; 3590370
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative multi-site case study, situated in the context of Ukraine's post-Soviet political economy, examined how orphanage educators' expectations and beliefs about orphans' academic abilities and potential, curriculum, peer relationships, and education policy shaped orphans' post-secondary education decisions and trajectories. Examination of the educational experiences of orphans and children deprived of parental care shed light on socio-economic inequalities confronting these marginalized youth in and beyond state care. This dissertation is informed by critical theories of social and cultural reproduction that examine the relationship between schooling and socio-economic inequalities. I draw mainly on the concepts of the hidden curriculum and forms of capital (cultural, social, and economic).

Research conducted in Ukraine, primarily through quantitative surveys, tends to pathologize orphans and neglects to investigate how their secondary education experiences impact their trajectories post-institutionalization. This study, framed in qualitative methodology, was informed by observations of daily in- and out-of-classroom activities in two orphanages; in-depth, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with Grade 10 and 11 orphanage students, orphanage educators and administrators, and orphanage alumni; and document analysis. I focused on 81 orphanage youth and 41 educators as key participants embedded in the orphanage system.

My findings demonstrated that, despite some institutional changes, the ideologies, regimes, and cultures of Ukrainian orphanages still reflect the Soviet legacy of sequestered institutions providing substandard quality education. My examination of orphanage education revealed that many teachers, informed by genetic deficit ideology, communicated low expectations for student success and implemented an unchallenging curriculum characterized by watered-down teaching and learning materials, oversimplified assignments, canceled classes, and inflated grades. This study uncovered nuanced use of a hidden curriculum that ensured social reproduction and what I term a "transformative hidden curriculum" that fostered student success through art therapy, soft pedagogy, and hard caring.

Furthermore, this study shed light on factors that influenced orphans' complex post-secondary education decision-making processes, including peer pressure to attend vocational school; teacher-directed versus teacher-encouraged decisions; and informed, independent decisions largely thwarted by structural constraints. Lack of cultural and social capital significantly limited orphans' options and disenfranchised them in the labor market, thus perpetuating social reproduction in Ukrainian society.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bajaj, Monisha
Commitee: Bartlett, Lesley, Ginsburg, Mark, Natriello, Gary
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
Department: International and Transcultural Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 74/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: East European Studies, Secondary education, Public policy, Higher education
Keywords: Cultural capital, Economic capital, Educational inequalities, Hidden curriculum, Labor market transitions, Orphans and vulnerable children and youth, Social reproduction, Ukraine, Vocational education
Publication Number: 3590370
ISBN: 9781303299940
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