ERG SES G 08, Education and Research
This contribution deals with the question, which factors and patterns of influence lead to Early School Leaving (ESL) and which to educational upward mobility and specially focuses on the interplay of factors within the educational system (e.g. on the level of system, school, teacher, lesson) and those beyond the educational system (e.g. on the level of the individual, its family relationships, its socio-economic background etc.).
ESL is one of the key problems of contemporary educational systems, also in many European countries. Members of the EU have committed to reduce the rates of ESL by 2020 to less than 10%. On average, Austria has already reached this aim (approx. 7%), however, for high risk groups the numbers are still much too high (up to 17.7% for young men with a Turkish migration background)(cf. Statistik Austria 2014). Besides its huge impact on individuals and their social environment it has major economic and social consequences for the EU, as ESL leads to a high risk of health problems, higher unemployment rates, a higher chance of getting low-paid and insecure jobs, little political interest and social exclusion (cf. Quenzel 2010).
There are theoretical models explaining social inequality, the most prominent ones are the model of social reproduction (social positions are inherited indirectly by the intergenerational transfer of not only economic, but social and cultural capital which enable people to reach a certain level of education or high-end jobs, thereby the unequal social system is reproduced again and again, see Bourdieu & Passeron 1971) and the rational choice theory (people act rationally when choosing certain kinds of educational courses over others, i.e. they evaluate costs, risks and benefits. As the outcome of this evaluation depends on the family’s status - e.g. upper-class people will have a higher cost-tolerance than working-class families – decisions regarding educational careers are taken, cf. Boudon 1974). Apart from these models, there are numerous quantitative studies on the dimensions of early school leaving as well as on risk factors for unsuccessful school careers (e.g. PISA), but few qualitative studies which enable a better understanding of the individuals concerned, their motives, perspectives and experiences (cf. Lange-Vester & Teiwes-Kügler 2006), which would be especially important since early school leaving is a multiple-factor phenomenon consisting of individual, social, socioeconomic aspects as well as institutional facets (cf. Nairz-Wirth et al. 2010). As a consequence, there are hardly any in-depth explanations for the reasons of ESL. To fill this gap, this study deals with patterns of orientation of the ones directly concerned in order to find out more about problems, obstacles but also possible resources for educational careers. This helps to identify specific needs of different kinds of pupils, which is the basis to find ways of answering them in an educational system in the European context and find out how their individual resources can be activated and applied.
The approach taken in the research project presented is opportunity-oriented: The perspective is extended to include interviewpartners who successfully reached educational upward mobility, which happens rarely in Austria, as in many other European countries: Intergenerational social mobility is very rare, a problem known as “inheritage” of educational status (cf. e.g. Lassnigg & Vogtenhuber 2009). The question why attempts at educational upward mobility hardly ever succeed is not resolved so far. Successful educational careers are studied to show up central moments enabling upward mobility in order to develop ways to foster such moments in the educational system in a next step.
Starting from a systematization of common risk factors, this contribution will discuss their actual relevance in the analysed educational careers and present findings of the case studies.
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