Educational Aspirations of Students in the Developing World: Evidence from Ethiopia

11 Sep 2015

Date: 10 Jan 2015

Series: Aspirations in Action (Journal of the Quaglia Institute), Winter 2015

Author: Yisak Tafere

Aspirations motivate for better achievements (Sherwood, 1998).  As people can only achieve what they have aspired, aspirations are important inputs for achievements.  Aspirations are an individual's desire to obtain a status objective or goals such as particular occupation or level of education (Kao and Thompson, 2003; MacBrayne, 1987).

 Educational aspirations could be influenced by family backgrounds, socioeconomic status, living areas and neighborhoods (Stewart et al., 2007) They may be different for the children of educated partners (Marjoribanks, 2005), those with a better economic status (MacBrayne, 1987), those who live in urban areas, boys (Haller and Virkler, 1993; Akande, 1987), and those holding relatively higher aspirations than their counterparts.

Some hold the view that poor people lack the capability to aspire and "to contest and alter the conditions fo their own poverty" (Appadurai, 2004, p.59).  Generally, "disadvantaged groups" have lower aspirations (St Clair and Benjamin, 2011) and this applies to the poor and young people.  Thus, for educators who emphasise the role of education in moving out of poverty, raising the educational aspirations of students remains a priority (Wrench et al., 2012; Quaglia and Cobb, 1996). The achievements of students could be enhanced by keeping the level of aspirations as high as possible (Quaglia and Cobb, 1996).

Others argue that students in some contexts hold unrealistically high educational aspirations.  Their aspirations do not reflect the availability of jobs that fit them.  In African, where balancing the educational and the occupational aspirations of young people is a challenge, one of the solutions suggested is "reorienting" them so that their aspirations reflect their reality and job priorities (Wellings, 1982, p.254).  But this implies deterring their aspirations.

This study challenges these arguments.  It shows that students from certain Ethiopian communities hold high educational aspirations.  Despite living in poverty, school children do not have any deficit of aspirations.

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