04 SES 03 B, Social Stratificaton and Inclusion
In response to the federal education-political situation in Switzerland, this contribution focuses on schools in the canton of Berne. However due to the rising importance of the integration of special-needs students into regular schools not only in the canton of Berne, but in Switzerland in general, as well as in many other societies, this contribution has a broader international relevance.
To satisfy the needs of all students in an inclusive school, the curriculum of the canton of Berne recommends different measures of internal differentiation such as “reduced individual learning objectives” and “compensation of disadvantages”. Due to the different definition of the target groups of these two measures, the question arises as to how to assign students to which measure? The target group of “reduced individual learning objectives” are considered to be students with a low academic performance potential and/or a cognitive impairment. The target group of “compensation of disadvantages” are students with an average or above-average academic performance but with a specific disadvantage (e.g. Dyslexia, ADHD). “Reduced individual learning objectives” are noted in the student’s report and don’t necessarily include special support, the main objective of this measure is that the students don’t have to achieve the regular learning objectives. A “compensation of disadvantages” is not mentioned in the report and gives the students specific aids (e.g. write program, extra time at exams) to achieve the regular learning objectives.
From a sociological perspective, it is worthwhile to examine whether these measures really are allocated to the before described students or whether ascriptive characteristics play a role in which – if any at all – measure the students get. Research in the field of external differentiation, such as tracking, has shown that characteristics such as migration background or social origin, influence the allocation to certain tracks and that school performance is not the only criteria for educational success (Becker & Beck, 2012; Goldthorpe, 2003; Kronig, 2003; Reisel, 2011; Stocké, 2007). This contribution explores, whether similar mechanisms can be observed regarding measures of internal differentiation for special-needs students.
Sociological theories that explain educational inequalities shall be applied to explain the social selectivity of integrative special education measures such as “reduced individual learning objectives” and “compensation of disadvantages”. Conflict theory implies that, in case of unexpected failure of their children at school, parents from higher social classes use a range of strategies to influence the performance assessment of teachers (Becker, 2000; Ditton, 2007; Stocké, 2010). Unlike parents from lower social classes, higher-class parents have the competencies and the insider knowledge to influence the performance assessment in order to sustain their status through successive generations (Bourdieu, 1983; Meulemann, 1985). Applied to integrative special education measures, it can be assumed that, in the unexpected case of poor school performance, parents from higher social classes have the resources and the motivation to initiate, and to profit from, a “compensation of disadvantages”, whereas children from parents from lower social classes rather get “reduced individual learning objectives” in case of poor school performance, since it is assumed that, from a rational-choice point of view, the fact that “reduced individual learning objectives” are mentioned in the report, doesn’t weigh as heavily for parents from lower social classes, since their educational motivation for further education is lower and their investment risk is higher, compared to higher social classes (vgl. Erikson & Jonsson, 1996; Esser, 1999). Also it is assumed that parents from lower social classes lack important resources to initiate “compensation of disadvantages” and are more likely to put up with “reduced individual learning goals” which has, due to the mentioning in the report, a certain stigma attached to it.
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