07 SES 01 A, Teachers' Views on Diversity
Cross-national educational research, such as PISA, has been central in comparing educational systems across Europe. This research shows that Flanders provides education of a rather high quality, as indicated by high average scores on the ability tests (6). Nevertheless, Flanders simultaneously scores quite low on social equality in education when compared to other European countries, as evidenced by ethnic minorities, children with a disability or from weaker socio-economic backgrounds underperforming when compared to their compatriots. This is not only evident from the PISA tests, but other Flemish research demonstrates time and again that these students tend to repeat years more often, are less present in highly-valued tracks of education, drop out more often and start a study in higher education less frequently (3, 4, 5, 11). In contrast, LGBT students tend to do relatively well in Flanders when compared to other countries (2). However, such findings should be considered with caution, given the fact that Flemish and cross-national research into the school experiences of LGBT students has been limited to date.
As is apparent from the discussion above, there seem to be pervasive issues considering social inequality in Flemish education. Given the fact that Flanders consistently scores poorly on several indicators of social equality, regardless of whether disability, ethnicity or SES is considered (3, 4, 5, 6, 11), it suggests that something pervasive might be going on, transcending the individual level. Hence, it might be advantageous for research to focus on school-related characteristics, rather than student-related characteristics. Furthermore, since school features are more amenable to change than individual characteristics, focusing on school features might be more conducive to social change. Consequently, in this research, we will focus on the meso-level of school and teacher-related characteristics. More specifically, we will research school policy and teachers’ attitudes towards diverse students, since previous research has demonstrated the importance of both policy and teacher attitudes for the everyday school experiences and educational success of students (1, 9). In line with school effects research (10), we will consider the impact of structural and compositional characteristics on the attitudes of the school staff and the policies the school puts into practice with regards to diverse students.
A central feature of this research is the broad scope, which is achieved by considering teacher attitudes and school policies directed at several social groups. Because most research tends to focus on a single indicator, such as ethnocentrism among teachers (12) or SES-biased evaluation (1), little research has considered several indicators of social inequality simultaneously. Consequently, little is known about how school policies and teacher attitudes towards these social groups might compare. Nonetheless, the intersectionality perspective emphasizes the importance of considering several indicators of social inequality at once, because of the way these indicators tend to intersect and amplify effects of social exclusion and bias (13). Moreover, considering several indicators of social inequality simultaneously contributes to a more nuanced understanding and better approximation of the complex social reality of contemporary school life.
Consequently, in this research, we will investigate and compare school policy and teachers attitudes towards diverse students. More specifically, we will consider policy and attitudes towards LGBT students, students with ethnic roots, a disability, and lower socio-economic background, since these groups tend to occupy a vulnerable position in the Flemish educational context and are confronted with pervasive issues of social inequality. Additionally, we will investigate how structural and compositional features of schools influence these teacher attitudes and school policies.
1. Boone, S., & Van Houtte, M. (2013). Why are teacher recommendations at the transition from primary to secondary education socially biased? A mixed-methods research. British Journal of Sociology of Education. 34(1), 20-38. 2. Dewaele, A., Vincke, J., Van Houtte, M., & Cox, N. (2008). The school trajectories of LGB and straight students. Antwerpen/Hasselt: Steunpunt Gelijkekansenbeleid. 3. Duquet, N., Glorieux, I., Laurijssen, I., & Van Dorsselaer, Y. (2006). White chalk works better. The school trajectories of ethnic minorities. Antwerpen: Garant. 4. Groenez, S., Nicaise, I., & De Rick, K. (2009). The unequal path through education. In L. Vanderleyden, M. Callens & N. J. (Eds.), The social state of affairs in Flanders. Sint-Niklaas: Drukkerij Room. 5. Nicaise, I., & Desmedt, E (2008). Equal opportunities at school: It’s possible! Sixteen paths for policy and practice. Mechelen: Plantyn. 6. OECD. (2014). PISA 2012 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science: OECD Publishing. 7. Pohan, C. A., & Aguilar, T. E. (2001). Measuring educators’ beliefs about diversity in personal and professional contexts. American Educational Research Journal, 38(1), 159-182. 8. Schraepen, B., Lebeer, J., & Vanpeperstraete, L. (2010). Viability of diversity and inclusive education in primary schools in Antwerp. Antwerpen: Plantijn Hogeschool, Universiteit Antwerpen & Artesis Hogeschool. 9. Szalacha, L. A. (2003). Safer sexual diversity climates: Lessons learned from an evaluation of Massachusetts safe schools program for gay and lesbian students. American Journal of Education, 110(1), 58-88. 10. Van Houtte, M. (2005). Climate or culture? A plea for conceptual clarity in school effectiveness research. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 16(1), 71-89. 11. Van Landeghem, G., & Van Damme, J. (2011). Figures on the evolution of primary special education until 2009. SSL-rapport ssl/od1/2011.48. 12. Vervaet, R., D’hondt, F., Van Houtte, M., & Stevens, P. (2016). The ethnic prejudice of Flemish teachers: the role of ethnic school composition and of teachability. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology. 22(4). p.552-562 13. West, C., & Fenstermaker, S. (1995). Doing difference. Gender & Society, 9(1), 8-37.
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