ERG SES G 08, Education and Research
General Description: Children from Roma communities are among the persistently lowest academic achievers in many European countries (Symeou, Luciak & Gobbo, 2009) and the same is true in Greece. In Greek schools, Roma students experience high dropout rates, low performance and higher levels of non completion compared to their Greek (non-Roma) peers (Nikolaou, 2009). In Greece, as elsewhere, the Roma experience social exclusion and wide-spread discrimination. However, there are some cases of Greek Roma who achieve educational success against the odds. Drawing on a set of in-depth interviews with twenty Greek Roma who have entered higher education, this paper examines how these participants account for their educational success. Although the participants’ backgrounds vary in terms of socioeconomics, gender, age and the local area where they come from, similar educational experiences that contribute to their success are reported in many cases. This paper investigates the core factors involved in such success.
Background: In the Greek national context, the Roma are legally Greek citizens who are regarded as belonging to vulnerable social groups (Dragonas, 2012) and are not officially recognised as a minority group (Kostadinova, 2011). Most Roma use their community language, Romani (Nikolaou, 2009), and mainly follow different cultural traditions compared to those of the Greek community. While the Roma in Greece are not a homogeneous group, to an extent, patriarchal attitudes and traditional gendered regimes are still evident in shaping aspects of social and cultural life (Chatzisavvidis, 2007). In Greece, the Roma are frequently reviled and discriminated against. In response to patterns of exclusion and the ‘under-achievement’ of Roma in the education system, state education programmes have targeted their schooling for the last two decades without much success. In contrast to the usual emphasis on Roma’s educational disadvantage, this paper is based on one core research question of my on-going doctoral study where I attempt to explore what has made the difference in the case of my highly unusual group. The interview questions centre on themes related to my Roma participants’ family, its support for education, their early education experiences and their secondary schooling in order to tease out the factors which facilitated their educational progression.
Research Focus: This paper’s main research question is as follows: ‘What factors facilitate Roma’s success in Greek education?’ Accessing higher education is used as a proxy for educational success in my study, although what counts as educational success is contestable. This paper aims at mapping key success factors which enabled twenty Roma in Greece to ‘make a difference’ by entering higher education.
Conceptual framework: As DiMaggio (1982, p 189) argued some time ago, “it takes more than measured ability to do well in school”. Factors of class, culture and familiarity with the system all have a part to play in students’ progression. These attributes have been discussed as forms of capital by Pierre Bourdieu. In this paper, I draw on the Bourdieusian concepts of habitus and capital –economic, cultural, social- in order to analyse and theorise how my Roma participants who have accessed higher education in Greece –a form of success ‘against the odds’- account for their educational success.
Chatzissavidis, S. (2007). Οι Ρομ στην ιστορία της ανθρωπότητας και στην Ελλάδα [The Roma in the history of humanity and of Greece]. In Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs-The University of Thessaly (eds), Ετερότητα στη Σχολική Τάξη και Διδασκαλία της Ελληνικής Γλώσσας και των Μαθηματικών: η περίπτωση των Τσιγγανοπαίδων, Πρόγραμμα: «Ένταξη Τσιγγανοπαίδων στο σχολείο», Επιμορφωτικός Οδηγός [Diversity in the Classroom and the Teaching of the Greek language and Mathematics: the case of Gypsy children, Programme ‘Gypsy children’s Inclusion in school’, Training guide] (pp. 39-64). Volos. DiMaggio P. (1982). Cultural Capital and School Success: The Impact of Status Culture Participation on the Grades of U.S. High School Students, American Sociological Review, 47 (2), 189-201. Dragonas, Th. (2012) Roma mothers and their young children. Unpublished Report, Bernard Van Leer Foundation. Kostadinova, G. (2011). Minority Rights as a Normative Framework for Addressing the Situation of Roma in Europe. Oxford Development Studies, 39(2), 163-183. Nikolaou, G. (2009). Teacher training on Roma education in Greece: a discussion about the results of INSETRom experience in two Greek schools. Intercultural Education, 20(6), 549-557. Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory (2nd Edition). Thousand Oaks, California; London: Sage. Symeou, L., Luciak, M. & Gobbo, F. (2009). Teacher training for Roma inclusion: implementation, outcomes and reflections of the INSETRom project. Intercultural Education, 20(6), 493-496. Trevor, J. & Newburn, T. (2001). Widening access: Improving police relations with hard to reach groups. London: Home Office, Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, Policing and Reducing Crime Unit.
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