The nature of boys’ educational aspirations in urban Jamaica: an exploratory mixed-methods study

Shawanda N Stockfelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


The thesis reports on a study of boys’ aspirations for higher education in
Jamaica. Boys are grossly under-represented in comparison to girls in most tertiary institutions. It has now become a priority for the Jamaican government to
increase boys’ access to further and higher education by finding ways of boosting their educational achievements. Within the international literature, educational achievement has been heavily linked to educational aspirations.
However, this is an under-researched area in the Jamaican context. Do these
boys aspire towards higher education? What is the nature of their educational
aspirations? The study uses a reconceptualized notion of Bourdieu’s ‘field’,
‘habitus’ and ‘capital’ to inform the overarching view of aspiration. The
research is underpinned by critical realist ontological, epistemological and
methodological assumptions. This supports an exploratory mixed-method
approach using two main phases of research. Phase one involved ethnographic
techniques to qualitatively explore the narratives of boys – and their families
and teachers – in relation to the nature of their aspirations for higher education.
This formed the basis for phase two which was a quantitative analysis of the
factors shaping their aspirations undertaken in two case study schools. The
findings suggested that boys are advantaged/disadvantaged based on their
socio-economic backgrounds and the way they were categorised by their
schools – e.g. performance streams – and the education system – e.g. type of
school. Persistent narratives from structures within their educational field,
especially their maternal families and experiences within their immediate communities – including the virtual presence of family and community within the
Jamaican Diaspora in the USA, Canada and the UK – were also shown to help
shape dispositional beliefs held by these boys, towards/about higher education
and schooling. The study concludes by making some recommendations for
policy, practice and future research based on the findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671
Number of pages1
JournalCompare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education
Issue number4
Early online date24 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • educational aspirations, capital, diaspora, agency, mixed-methods, critical realism


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