Published: July 2013

Oxford Review of Education 39(4) pp 464-479

This paper explores the complex relationship between social justice and education in the public and private spheres. The politics of education is often presented as a battle between left and right, the state and the market. In this representation, the public and the private spheres are neatly aligned on either side of the line of battle, and social justice is commonly seen as the prerogative of the public sphere. This paper challenges this representation. It shows how the language of what counts as public and private in education is historically specific, culturally contingent and ideologically loaded. Through drawing on a range of education policies and practices, the paper demonstrates that ‘public’ and ‘private’ are not simple opposites. Moreover, it argues that social justice can be conceptualised in ways that have complex and multi-faceted implications for public and private sphere involvement. The paper concludes that if we are to enhance our understanding of the relationship between social justice and education we need to recognise the multi-faceted nature of what counts as private, what counts as public and what counts as justice.

Keywords
social justice, education policy, public, private, education inequality, Nancy Fraser