22 SES 13 A, Barriers and Policies for Access to Higher Education In Belgium, England and France
In the French-speaking literature on education, the notion of ‘inheritor’, popularized by the book of Bourdieu and Passeron published in 1964, is commonly used to evoke the ideal-typical student from the most socially advantaged backgrounds. The idea conveyed is that the excellent academic achievements and trajectories of that kind of student can be explained mainly by family inheritance of a cultural capital academically valued. But does it still capture adequately what is at stake today? Several societal and educational changes prompt us to look again at the theories and concepts used to explain and interpret the reproduction modes of social inequalities. We believe that the effect of cultural capital is now partly going through new avenues. What matters, according to us, is less a familiarity with a highbrow culture than a knowledge of the convertibility rate of different types of capital in educational capital and social opportunities, a knowledge of the paths to follow to get degrees that provide valued opportunities and lead to elite social positions. To condense in an evocative manner what characterizes the nowadays privileged student, we will use the metaphor of the ‘insider’ and consider what adjustments this new language suggests to social reproduction theory.
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