Geographies of Education

Mark Hunter regularly runs this course for undergraduate students at UTSC. An outline of the course, as well as profiles from two of his students, and the projects they worked on, can be found below.


This course’s point of departure is that education both results from and shapes the social geography of societies. Where we go to school and how we perform at school depends to a great deal on what country, region, and part of town we live in; the social class and race of our parent or parents/guardians; the level of public funding allocated to schooling; and our interaction with our friends and family. All of these issues are inherently geographical. A school located in a million-dollar suburb of Toronto generally does better than one located next to social housing; a school in the global South is generally funded less than one in the North—and so on.

Publicly funded education institutions, it is generally said, enable the poor to climb the social ladder. In some cases, this vision can be true. But in the first section of this course we will explore why this is often not the case by considering questions of class, race, and gender. We then turn to some specifically geographical questions on transnational mobility and movement within cities for schooling. We also look in detail at the history of residential schools in Canada.

In 2019 we will have a special focus throughout the course on a simple question: why do students drop out of UTSC? This will be the basis of your final paper.

Student Research Projects

Institutional Failure Masked Behind Prestige: A Case Study on Chloe Silverado – by Vallari Patel

Like most high school students who start their Post-Secondary Education process, Chloe Silvarado (pseudonym), a Egypt-born Canadian National, weighed out her options for different universities but felt a greater pull to go to the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). Her pull was largely due to the prestige associated with the institution and the convenience of being able to live with her cousin, who at the time was in her first year at UTSC, living in Toronto while Chloe lived in Egypt. Chloe’s cousin eventually graduated with honours, majoring in **********. Chloe and her cousin follow in the footsteps of their parents for higher education, their father, a civil engineer and their mother had completed her Masters and was an elementary school teacher in Egypt.

The Friends We No Longer See: An Examination on Why Students Drop-Out of UTSC – by Andrew Opper

Derek (pseudonym) dropped out of UTSC because of his abysmal academic grades. His poor grades would be apparent to anyone who looked at his transcript or attendance record. However, if we genuinely want to understand why he dropped-out, we must look more closely at the reasons why he failed his classes. Students like Derek drop-out of UTSC because even though they lack the abilities, skills, and mindsets to excel in a university setting; they are streamed into universities by socio-economic systems. Due to personal circumstances, they lack the cultural capital to navigate services. Educational institutions profit from inflating marks and accepting students. Students get inappropriately streamed into settings that do not match their skill sets. Many of these students and their parents unwisely put all their trust in a system that they believe is fair and just. This report is not arguing that people who do not attend universities are less talented or skilled. However, they merely have skill sets that are better fostered and utilized elsewhere. Derek shows us that not all people are destined for university or should they feel they have to be.

Why do students drop out of UTSC? – by Frankie Leung

Ken (pseudonym), a current third-year ********** student at UTSC, is the interviewee of the research on the topic. We met through a club activity and by the time I mentioned I was working on a paper about why students drop out of UTSC, he volunteered to be my interviewee. Through his answers to the questionnaire, I was able to discover his struggle for studying at UTSC. A possible hypothesis of him dropping out is how the negative experiences from UTSC pushed students to drop out. This paper will be discussing the topic in three parts: a summary from the interview, a cross-reference of the interview result of the class and lastly, the connection between lecture readings.

Exploring the Role of Mental Health in Post-Secondary Success – by Ramezz Safadal

In October of 2019, I reached out to a friend and former classmate to conduct an interview on his reasoning for dropping out of university. This interview allowed me to collect research, which aided me in answering the following question: Why do students drop out of the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC)?  The interviewee gave me permission to use all information gathered except their name, as he would like to remain anonymous. In preserving confidentiality, the interviewee will be referred to as Robert.

Blog Post

Reflections on classes and recent research – Mark Hunter