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Romantic expectations and harsh realities: tertiary access to the rescue

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This paper examines the educational ambitions of adults from a disadvantaged area in Australia who returned to study at a further education institution as a means to access higher education. The study examines the significance and influence of romance, gender and social class on their formal learning, and the delaying influence of these factors in realising lifelong learning aspirations. It draws on written testimonies of students' early expectations and beliefs about learning, education and life choices, their current beliefs and future tertiary and career expectations to argue that romantic conceptions of early motherhood/marriage have a negative impact on women from low socio-economic backgrounds. The focus is on self-reporting of the impact of early parenthood and/or the consequences of premature dissolution of a romantic relationship on educational aspirations or opportunity. We define the basic concept of romance as concerning love and 'living happily ever after', incorporating love and people's social aspirations, hopes and dreams, offering the promise of a better life. We find, one, that the discourse of romance had a very powerful early gendered influence on the female students' educational aspirations, and on their 'enlightenment' after romance 'went wrong' which contributed to their educational disadvantage; and two, that exclusion from education is a motivating factor in returning to learning as an adult and strongly influences parental aspirations for those with children.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Griffith University, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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