06 September 2011

Ancestors and Education

Have you ever thought about how your own level of education may have more to do with your ancestry than your ability?  Could it also have more to do with your location than your sense of vocation?


My last years of high school, from the ages of 14 to 17, were spent in Scotland.  None of that education was at a private school or anywhere else that could be considered as privileged in British terms.  For educational purposes I was also considered to be Scottish, with a Scottish curriculum of subjects offered, even though all I wanted to do was return to England as soon as possible to live with my grandparents.


University was never an option for me at the age of 17.

I just wanted to leave school, and to leave Scotland.  I wanted skills for a job as soon as possible so I could gain enough of an income - and the opportunity - to allow me to travel the world.  No-one encouraged me to stay on at school for another year, or to consider progressing to university.  A job, any job, was more important.

My father worked mainly away from home when I was 17.  He would have been considered as having a reasonably high income, at least on paper for that year.  In reality, it did not mean that I personally had a high income, or access to anyone else's income.

If I had wanted to stay on at school and then go on to university, I do not know if my family would have been supportive, both personally and financially.  None of them had any experience of university life or what was involved with studying in one.  I do not know if I would have been able to go to a university in England, or if a university in Scotland would have been the only possibility.

My two closest Scottish school friends were both studying at Edinburgh University when I was working at the BBC in London.  My school friends both had relatives to assist them in Edinburgh.  I had no relatives in London, nor any former school friends there.


Imagine what options your ancestors had, then compare them with your own options and those of other family members today.

I did not have any family members in any Scottish university area, or any English university area come to that.  Seeking an education, or a job, can indeed be a daunting prospect without adequate social supports.

Who might your ancestors have known when they moved from one place to another?  Were they part of a process of chain migration, either from a rural area to a city one in the same country, or did they move from town to town, or even from country to country?

How did your ancestors pay for the education of their children?  How does that cost compare with the cost of an education today?


Here are two articles you may find interesting:

Edinburgh University to charge £36,000 a degree

Parents of the past paid hefty tuition fees


I would especially like to dedicate this blog post to readers who, like me, decided to return to study later in life, after the age of thirty, when they probably have (or had) a great many additional responsibilities - and deeper relationships - to support, not to mention bills to pay.

Here is one of my earlier posts mentioning the topic of education:

Names and literacy

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I especially appreciate historical insights.