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Sen and the art of educational maintenance: evidencing a capability, as opposed to an effectiveness, approach to schooling

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There are few more widely applied terms in common parlance than ‘capability’. It is used (inaccurately) to represent everything from the aspiration to provide opportunity to notions of innate academic ability, with everything in between claiming apostolic succession to Amartya Sen, who (with apologies to Aristotle) first developed the concept. This paper attempts to warrant an adaptation of Sen’s capability theory to schooling and schooling policy, and to proof his concepts in the new setting using research involving 100 pupils from five English secondary schools and a schedule of questions derived from the capability literature. The findings suggest that a capability approach can provide an alternative to the dominant Benthamite school effectiveness paradigm, and can offer a sound theoretical framework for understanding better the assumed relationship between schooling and well-being.
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Keywords: Sen; capability; proof of concept; schooling

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Education, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Publication date: 2012-09-01

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