Meritocracy In Schools

Is it biassed towards the rich?

What is meritocracy?

Like many people, I base my accomplishments upon my own merits. How I did in a test at high school was linked to how much studying and revision I had completed before. My GCSE’s were purely based upon how well I had completed those painstaking long questions for history, the one’s which require more dates then you can remember. Or even making up a fake story within less than 30 minutes. I would consider my place at college to be one based upon meritocracy.

Meritocracy is defined as by the Cambridge English Dictionary

A social system, society or organisation in which people get success or power because of their abilities, not because of their money or social position

By this logic, everyone should get into schools, universities and colleges based upon their academic scores, scholarship grades or sports abilities when awarded sports scholarships . Where money from rich parents is not used to pay for private tutors/lessons in sport. However it is easy to see that despite places using meritocracy in admissions, those who have wealthy parents, can gain a leg up on their fellow year mates. With the cost of private tutors worth every penny so their children can get into the big league schools around the world. Sports seen as rich sports such as golf, equestrian, fencing are sports which parents will ensure their children can play to an exceptional level, by the use of private lessons

The truth about admissions

An article by Michele Hernandaz in the New York Times, who used to be a former admissions officer for Dartmouth College, states that the recruited athletes who make up a class are below the school standard.

Recruited athletes make up 20 percent of the class and many of them come in well below the standard for the school

Now as a sports person, who plays golf and knows how much uk golf clubs cost, depending where it is based and the social class they wish to entice towards the club. Paying a lot for a professional golfer to help improve their game is common amongst those wishing to be a part of the selection process for either their county or country. This can be seen also through those who are academically smart, where parents are paying for private tutors, to further their kids education.

But where does this version of meritocracy fail us?

This becomes exceptionally hard for those students who come from lower social classes or their household income is not enough to help support them in their endeavours. Where they rely on being taught everything through school or spaced out lessons to help improve either academically or sporting wise. This is where admissions based on meritocracy are against those people. Families who have money and a high social class can afford to pay for extra tutors, extra sport lessons to ensure their child is the best. However, those who have enough money to send their children to school and maybe one lesson of an “expensive” sport a month. These children who get the grades needed or higher could be overlooked by those whose parents paid and hired experts.

Children of alumni get a leg up. So for the children of major donors. A recent lawsuit upon Harvard's Admissions policies revealed the details of how they are treated as revenue generators as they are students. And athletes are routinely admitted with lower grades and test scores then other students

The part we all need to understand is, if meritocracy is based upon merits and accomplishments in regards to grades or work ethic. Are those students who got into the elite universities around the world cheating the system, or does the system no matter how well thought out it is; favour those students who got extra help with studies and accomplishments through private tutors. Some might call this cheating, others might call it thinking outside the box. Or it could just be parents wishing to help their children get the best grades and become the best version of themselves.

All in all, meritocracy could be seen as biassed towards the rich. When they have the means and ways to pay for private tutors unlike those who can't pay the price for those same services. However, is it seen as being biassed or are those who have the means to pay for the services using them to help educate their children past what they learn to help them later on in life. The report Unequal Britain states that a majority of people believe that ambition and hard work is more important than social class or wealth. If this is the case, then surely those children who are being taught by private tutors are ambitious enough and hard working enough to manage this on top of school work, and the work provided by the tutors, to be given a place in admissions towards an elite univeristy; purely because of their merits.