14 SES 08 B, School-Related Transitions Within a Life Course Perspective (Part 3)
Paper Session: continued from 14 SES 01 B, 14 SES 02 B and to be continued in 14 SES 09B
The massification of compulsory education in Western countries and the consequent increased school competition had various effects. One was the development of a school market in public schools, reflected in the search, by families, of the school and even the classroom they consider most adequate (Dubet, 2007).
Many researchers (Nogueira, 2010, 2012; Zanten, 2007) have studied middle classes strategies concerning their children schooling, both in education systems allowing choice of the desired public school or in systems not allowing it. Zanten (2007) highlights the strategic and sophisticated ways the middle-class parents plan and follow their children’s schooling. Their high degree of academic knowledge gives them refined understanding of social, institutional and legal mechanisms, and reflective and strategic capacity to mobilize the most appropriate resources. They give priority to informal networks with other middle class parents, as sources to obtain information to support their decisions.
Making clear that different middle class sectors have different objectives and criteria in school choice, Zanten (idem) stresses that parents with high cultural capital, working in public sectors, prefer public schools, since they acknowledge benefits in educating children in socially heterogeneous environments. However, they seek to ensure that heterogeneity does not lower academic training quality, being central concerns of them the class organisation policy and the practices of student evaluation. Their high social and cultural capitals give them access to information about ways to circumvent official rules, mobilize their contacts, and use legal means to overcome any potential problems.
As stated by Giddens (2000), structure both enables and constrains, insofar as its rules and resources can be used differently by social actors in a process that involves mutual dependence between structure and agency. The pioneering research of authors like Nogueira (2010, 2012) and Zanten (2007) opens horizons for launching new research avenues on ways how new middle class mobilize school systems rules and resources, in different countries and contexts, to keep those systems reproducing their class advantages, despite schooling massification.
The contribution of sociology of childhood, in considering child as a social actor, brings relevance to question the place given to / conquered by children in the definition of purposes and strategies by their families regarding their schooling, and between school-family relationships. The right of all children to express their opinions, and to have their viewpoints taken into account, enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 12), make this issue of particular interest to educational research. The concept of experience (Dubet, 1996; Montandon, 1997) can be applied in highly productive ways for this purpose.
Insofar as transitions between different school phases and/or different schools are particularly critical moments (Abrantes, 2009; Bronfenbrenner, 1987), the significance of those educational transitions perceived by pupils and their families, and the strategies adopted by families to cope with the situation are of particular relevance to educational research.
This paper is part of a broader study on the children’s agency in the transition between school phases and different schools. It focuses on the families’ agency in controlling this transition and the integration of children in the new school and in the new school phase. It aims to answer the following research questions:
- What are the purposes of middle class families for their children in a year of transition between school phases and different schools and what strategies do they implement to achieve them?
- What experience (representations, emotions, actions) have children and their families in the school transition on the 5th grade?
- Which space is given to children’s agency by families and school in this transitional phase? How do children attain it?
Abrantes, P. (2009). Perder-se e encontrar-se à entrada da escola - Transições e desigualdades na educação básica. Sociologia, problemas e práticas(60), 33-52. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1987). La ecología del desarrollo humano. Barcelona: Paidós. Dubet, F. (1996). Sociologia da experiência. Lisboa: Instituto Piaget. Dubet, F. (2007). El declive y las mutaciones de la institución. Revista de antropología social(16), 39-66. Giddens, A. (2000). Dualidade da estrutura: Agência e estrutura. Oeiras: Celta. Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (1986). Ethnography: Principles in practice. London; New York: Tavistock Publications. Montandon, C. (1997). L'éducation du point de vue des enfants. Paris: L'Harmattan. Nogueira, M. A. (2010). Classe média e escola: Novas perspetivas de análise. Currículo sem Fronteiras, 10(1), 213-231. Nogueira, M. A. (2012). As classes médias e a educação escolar. In J. Dayrell, M. A. Nogueira, J. M. Resende & M. M. Vieira (Eds.), Família, escola e juventude: Olhares cruzados Brasil-Portugal (pp. 110-131). Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG. O'Kane, C. (2000). The development of participatory techniques: Facilitating children's views about decisions which affect them. In P. Christensen & A. James (Eds.), Research with children: Perspectives and Practices (pp. 136-159). London: Routledge Falmer. Silva, Pedro. (2009). Ethnography: a method on the razor's edge. Problemy Wczesnej Edukacji: Issues in Early Education, 2(10), 46-64. Zanten, A. v. (2007). Reflexividad y elección de la escuela por los padres de la clase media en Francia. Revista de antropología social, 16, 245-278. UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b38f0.html [accessed 19 January 2014]
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