Vijetta Bachraz is a PhD scholar in the Crawford School and was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Scholarship with the Australian National University in 2015 to undertake a study on the institution of primary education in Mauritius and its influence on the positioning of children. This study will contribute to the policy landscape to promote more equitable outcomes for all children enrolled in government schools. Her research methodology identifies with the view that children are not only right-bearing citizens but also important social actors who can express views about their own lives given the opportunity.
The trajectory towards ‘a good life’ is said to rely on the ability of the citizen to amass cultural, social and cognitive capital, with childhood representing a fundamental life phase where parental and societal investments interplay to secure the future of children. This has led to a greater focus on education for the development of human capital to ensure future economic productivity. Mauritius is no exception to this trend. The race to the best secondary schools starts even before children turn five, when the greatest concern for most parents is to secure admission for their children in primary schools with a good track record. Parallel to this competitive nature of primary education, the private tuition ‘industry’ has flourished and further contributes to socio-economic inequalities.
Education is a powerful institution where goals towards ‘a good life’ are realised and reproduced; where children’s bodies are controlled and shaped through regimes of discipline, learning and development, maturation and skill. However, contemporary childhoods are also moving towards individualisation with children increasingly experiencing relative independence, autonomy and choice. We know very little about the ways in which children are positioned and position themselves as dependent/independent and regulated/unregulated within and between their home and school lives; being subject to and reproducing a particular construction of childhood whilst at the same time actively engaged in its alternative construction. This study aims to explore these tensions to provide insights into the ways in which the institution of primary education shapes children’s sense of self, their sense of belonging to their families and wider community and how it influences the broader construction of who children are in the present.