14 SES 13 A, Parent-teacher Relationships and School Choice in Urban Areas
Private schools in Germany are mainly funded by the state and raise in comparison to other countries moderate fees for schooling (around 30-150 € a month). Nevertheless there are expanding segregation processes caused by private schools (Gibson/Helsper 2012; Riedel et al. 2010). This is notable because of the continuous increase of the German private school sector over the last 10 years: Between 2003 and 2013 the share of general educational private schools has risen from 6.2% to 10.4% (Statistisches Bundesamt 2014). The reasons for the attractiveness of private schools are largely unknown and there is evidence that there is not one main reason for the increase but diverse school choice motives (Koinzer/Mayer 2015).
This paper focuses on the role of parents in the primary school sector in Berlin, because the primary sector has an unexpected high increase of private primary schools pupils in the last 20 years (Statistisches Bundesamt 2014). Another reason is the limited possibility of choosing a certain public school because of mandatory school catchment areas. Therefore the only way to avoid the assigned public school is, beside of some exceptions like the wish of a special school profile, to send the child to a private school. Berlin was taken as statistical territory because, similar to other European cities, former working class districts and inner city neighbourhoods changed in a dramatic way during the last years. These changes are visible within the (urban) school choice behaviour as well.
In choosing the ‘right’ school urban middle class parents attempt to reproduce their economic, cultural and symbolic resources according to Bourdieu (1983, Olszweski/Sadovi 2003). But the ‘right’ school is also depending on the socio-economical and educational structure of their neighbourhoods.
This paper explains how socio-spatial influences are linked with the school choice of parents in Berlin and how this causes segregation processes and social inequality within the German primary education sector. According to Kristen (2005) there are segregation effects caused by school choice, because not all parents are actively choosing a school for their children. Especially parents with a migration background and educationally disadvantaged families often take the assigned school without searching or knowing other possibilities like private schools or using the exceptions in the public education system.
To answer the question of segregation processes through socio-spatial influences and school choice we try to look at the reasons why parents choose a certain school. Current research shows that it is difficult to analyse distinction-based school choice reasons with quantitative data sets because these motives are minimized or not verbalized by parents (e.g. Speiser 1993). Especially habitual driven school choice motives are difficult to measure with quantitative data. In contrast to that, qualitative interview studies show that distinction driven school choice reasons play a considerable role in this context (Helpser/Krüger 2015). Therefore, qualitative in-depth interviews with parents are the main resource of the analysis completed with quantitative data sets offering information to the neighbourhoods of the parents.
The school choice motives are combined with Bourdieu’s Theory of Habitus (1987) and Social Space (Bourdieu 1991) to analyse the relationship of parental milieu and the chosen public or private school, respectively. Also theories from urban sociology (e.g. Häussermann/Kronauer 2009) are used to combine the school choice motives with the influence of spatial space and neighbourhoods that can result in (local) segregation effects.
This paper tries to answer the question to what extend parents’ school choices are influenced by motives of distinction. Does the importance of these motives differ between parents choosing private or public schools? What role do socio-spatial characteristics of neighbourhoods play in this?
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