ERG SES G 08, Minorities and Education
General Description: The underachievement of Roma pupils has been well documented in many European countries (Symeou et al., 2009). In Greece, in response to long-standing patterns of exclusion and the ‘under-achievement’ of Roma in the school system, a number of national programmes have targeted their schooling for the last two decades. Despite these interventions, Greek Roma pupils’ erratic attendance, higher dropout rates and lower attainment as compared with non-Roma are still being reported (Mavrommatis, 2008; Kostouli & Mitakidou, 2009; Dragonas, 2012). In addition, it has been argued that the education offered to Greek Roma is often of low quality (Dragonas, 2012). Drawing on a set of in-depth interviews with twenty Greek Roma who have entered higher education, this paper examines the role that some teachers played in my participants’ successful educational pathways. My argument is that teachers can disrupt patterns of underachievement and support educational success for their Greek Roma students. In this paper and in my research, entrance to higher education is taken as a marker of educational success because in Greek society, higher education holds high symbolic value and is considered to be a lever for social mobility (Sianou‐Kyrgiou & Tsiplakides, 2011; Themelis, 2013).
Background: In Greece, the Roma are Greek citizens but not officially recognised as a national or linguistic minority group (Kostadinova, 2011). Thus, little reliable data about the Greek Roma is available (Dragonas, 2012). It is estimated that there are around 230,000 Roma in Greece; most are considered to be familiar with and use their community language, Romani (Nikolaou, 2009). Most Roma in Greece are settled residents and are traders (Markou, 2008). To an extent, some traditional gendered practices are still considered to influence the Roma in Greece (Chatzisavvidis, 2007). In the Greek context, the Roma are frequently reviled and discriminated against. As detailed above, despite some attempts to support Roma children in school, they regularly under-perform in comparison with their Greek peers (Nikolaou, 2009). In contrast to the usual emphasis on Roma’s educational disadvantage, this paper focuses on twenty Greek Roma who entered higher education. In particular, in this paper, I examine the contribution of teachers on the participants’ educational progression.
Research Focus: This paper examines the contribution of teachers towards my participants’ educationally successful pathways. Accessing higher education is used as a proxy for educational success in my study, although what counts as educational success is contestable. This paper analyses the participants’ accounts regarding the role (some of) their teachers played in their educational success.
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 Bourdieusian concepts of habitus and capital – economic, cultural, social (Bourdieu, 2004)- in order to analyse and theorise how teachers served as sources of cultural and social capital for my participants.
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