Understanding how Higher Education aspirations are shaped amongst Mexican high school students.

Linan Segura, Claudia (2020) Understanding how Higher Education aspirations are shaped amongst Mexican high school students. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Young people’s higher education aspirations are a prominent topic within global higher education policy debates. However, discussions are often framed in terms of holding poor young people responsible for lacking aspirations or attributing this to working- class failure (Sellar and Storan 2013). This research explores the higher education aspirations of Mexican young people (age 17-27) living in poverty and adds to the critique of neoliberal understandings which frame aspirations as a homogenous resource that young people have in ‘high’ or ‘low’ supply. A rethinking of aspirations is needed so as to not fall into the trap of a ‘raising aspirations’ political discourse where young people are held responsible for not having enough or the right kind of aspirations.

The focus of this research was (a) the meanings that young people and their families attribute to having HE aspirations, (b) the role of young people’s networks in the formation and pursuit of their HE aspirations and (c) the ways in which young people’s social networks influence the way they shape and navigate their HE aspirations. Drawing upon the concept of aspirations as cultural, collective and navigational capacities (Appadurai 2004) and its link to social navigation as a way of conceptualising the interaction between agency and social structures (Vigh 2006), this thesis shows how aspirations are intricately woven within young people’s social life. It makes novel contributions to youth studies in the Global South by using a qualitative research approach with senior high school students at a technological high school1 in Morelos, Mexico. This comprised 10 months of participant observation, life history interviews and participatory drawings with 20 students and their families.

The thesis makes four main contributions to our understanding of the higher education aspirations of young people living in poverty. First, it strengthens the view of HE aspirations as embodying young people’s past, present and future. Second, it recognises that young people perceive HE as having transformative value, where young people can become someone in life, ‘ser alguien en la vida’, through it. Third, it highlights that the changes in young people’s HE aspirations are rooted in the different values attributed to education, family, community, labour and dependency, which coexist and at times contradict each other. In the face of an uncertain environment, young people strategise and do a ‘bricolage’ (Weston and Imas 2018) where they build their aspirations with what they have at hand. Finally, it provides an insight into the complex system of reciprocity networks in which young people participate that can constrain their HE aspirations. Policy and research around HE aspirations needs to take into consideration the diverse experiences of young people living in poverty, a group whose experiences are commonly generalised.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Global Development (formerly School of International Development)
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2021 14:26
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2021 14:26
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/80990


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