Spheres of justice within schools: Reflections and evidence on the distribution of educational goods

Clara Sabbagh, Nura Resh, Michal Mor, Pieter Vanhuysse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article argues that there are distinct spheres of justice within education and examines a range of justice norms and distribution rules that characterize the daily life of schools and classrooms. Moving from the macro to micro level, we identify the following five areas: the right to education, the allocation of (or selection into) learning places, teaching-learning practices, teachers' treatment of students, and student evaluations of grade distribution. We discuss the literature on the beliefs by students and teachers about the just distribution of educational goods in these five domains, and on the practices used in the actual allocation of these goods. In line with normative 'spheres of justice' arguments in social theory, we conclude that the ideals of social justice within schools vary strongly according to the particular resource to be distributed. Moreover, these ideals often do not correspond with the practices that actually guide resource distribution in education, which may go some way toward explaining explicit or latent conflicts in this sphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-118
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Psychology of Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Complex equality
  • Distributive politics
  • Educational goods
  • Justice perceptions
  • Spherical pluralism
  • Walzer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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