Juliana Okumangene

Discipline: Graduate School of Education
Research Centre/Unit: Ed.D Generic

Project Summary

My research interest will focus on the modern-day British meritocratic society. According to the Oxford Dictionary from 2007, a meritocracy is a social system in which people’s success in life depends not on social status but primarily on their talents, capabilities, and efforts. The doctrine of meritocracy governs all aspects of British society and government policies. However, in my view, the inequalities within society continue, and the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, the rich and the poor, and the classes has never been wider in British society. As a result, it is fair to ask, has meritocracy failed, and what could be done to close the gap that this perceived meritocracy has created?

Drawing upon all my experiences as an ethnic minority teacher, I have wondered why there is an insufficient number of people from ethnic minority communities in the teaching profession. This has resulted in the research journey that I hope to begin whilst writing my thesis. Due to the importance of teaching as a social activity, it is important that the teaching force is representative by making sure that there are sufficient numbers of ethnic minority teachers in our classrooms. With a wide range of teachers from different ethnicities, a sense of social inclusion is valued among all (teachers and pupils); the absence of such a variety of teachers would undermine our education system.

Meritocracy is a construct of the western society, especially in the United States and the UK. The meritocratic discourse has commonly focused on the talents, abilities, and efforts made by individuals, and it has been conceptualised as the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed for success in life. One of the main social functions of meritocracy is a system of rewards based on merit, underpinned by equality in opportunities. However, throughout my teaching career, I have wondered if the concept is endorsing a lack of trust and isolationism within ethnic minority communities, which in turn is preventing these people from joining the teaching profession.

There is a limited amount of academic literature focusing on ethnic minority teachers’ underrepresentation and the meritocratic concept. Through an interdisciplinary approach, I aim to consider the impact of the social context of meritocracy by using an ideology critique to unveil the social contradictions within this concept and the meanings attached to it. My overall objective is not only to challenge the status quo that reproduces inequality through the ideology of meritocracy, but also to understand why people from ethnic minority communities are discouraged from joining the profession if we really do live in a fair and equal society that offers enough opportunities and social mobility for everyone to succeed.


OED [Oxford English Dictionary]. (2007). Oxford: Oxford UP. Accessed April 27, 2008, from: http://www.oed.com/