14 SES 06 B, Perspectives, Choice and Transitions in Secondary Education
This study explores students’ reasons underlying their upper secondary school choice in Taiwan, and investigates these as potential mediators between family background and the characteristics of their chosen schools. While enrolment is principally controlled by catchment areas in many European countries, there are no catchment areas for upper secondary schools in Taiwan and, thus, students are not assigned to a local school. This creates a particular environment in which to examine issues related to school choice. Considering that many industrialised countries, including those in Europe, have embraced a policy of increased freedom of school choice, it is of interest to investigate students’ preferences for school choices in the Taiwanese context.
Since reforms over recent decades have given people greater choice, it is critical to understand the factors that parents or students deem important in making their school choices. Consequently, there is a growing body of research investigating the characteristics of schools preferred by parents. These studies can be broadly divided into two approaches. One approach is via the use of surveys asking individuals about their preferences for different schools and the related characteristics of their stated preferences. The other approach concerns the actual school choices of parents and students (Chakrabarti & Roy, 2010). While the survey results are helpful in discerning the preferences of parents, there are well-known limitations, such as social desirability bias or differences between how people respond to surveys and their actual behaviours (Elacqua, Schneider & Buckley, 2006; Teske & Schneider, 2001). On the other hand, studies observing actual choice behaviour usually rely on school application data. However, these studies do not include the significant issues that arise during parents’ decision-making process. Therefore, it is important to find alternative ways to investigate the important question of school choice.
This study explores the reasons why students do not choose schools closer to home, and this adds another perspective in the question of students’ school choice. Considering that distance is usually regarded as a crucial constraint that restricts school choice (Burgess et al., 2011; Denice & Gross, 2016), it is important to compare the individual characteristics and school preferences of students’ choices of nearby or distant schools. Parents and students have to make trade-offs regarding school attributes when choosing a school and, therefore, they were asked why they chose a particular school rather than what their preferences were before any trade-offs were made. As indicated previously, preferences for school attributes differ among socio-economic backgrounds (OECD, 2016; Weiher & Tedin, 2002). Therefore, students’ family backgrounds must also be considered.
In Taiwan, students completing their compulsory education are free to choose any upper secondary school; they are not restricted by measures such as catchment areas. Students at upper secondary level do not have to pay tuition fees, either in public or in private schools. When a school is oversubscribed, a selection process is carried out by a centralised application and admission system. Undoubtedly, this has led to segregation among schools even though the capacity of upper secondary schools is much higher than student demand. Accordingly, students’ academic performance and the schools’ average performance need to be taken into consideration when studying issues related to school choice in the Taiwanese context.
In summary, the main objectives of this study are:
(i) To explore the reasons motivating students not to choose upper secondary schools closer to home in Taiwan.
(ii) While many studies have demonstrated the association between family background and students’ commuting time, this study aimed to investigate students’ reasons underlying school choice as well as the characteristics of their current schools as potential mediators.
Burgess, S., Greaves, E., Vignoles, A., & Wilson, D. (2011). Parental choice of primary school in England: what types of school do different types of family really have available to them? Policy Studies, 32, 531 – 547. Chakrabarti, R. & Roy, J. (2010). The Economics of Parental Choice. In: P. Peterson, E. Baker & B. McGaw (Eds.), Economics of education (pp.336-342). Oxford: Elsevier. Denice, P. & Gross, B. (2016). Choice, Preferences, and Constraints: Evidence from Public School Applications in Denver . Sociology of Education, 89(4), 300–320. Elacqua, G., Schneider, M., & Buckley, J. (2006). School choice in Chile: Is it class or classroom? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 25(3), 577–601. OECD (2016). PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools. Paris: PISA, OECD Publishing. Teske, P. & Schneider, M. (2001). What Research Can Tell Policymakers about School Choice. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 20(4), 609-631. Weiher, G. R., & Tedin, K. L. (2002). Does choice lead to racially distinctive schools? Charter schools and household preferences. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 21(1), 79-92.
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