14 SES 06 A JS, Overcoming School Failure & Enhancing Social Cohesion in Diverse Communities
Joint Paper Session NW 07 and NW 14
In international and Swedish research, there is a consensus that dropping out of school or incomplete upper secondary education are clear indicators that a young individual is at risk of future problems. School failure is a gradual process over time, with both structural and individual factors interacting, and social background greatly influences the level of education young people achieve (Rumberger & Lim 2008, McGrath 2009, Dale 2010, SOU 2013:74). There is clear trend of increasingly long, fragmented and uncertain transitions between school and work for young people in OECD countries. The yoyo pattern between education, employment, unemployment and employment has become more frequent (Walther 2006, Settersten Jr. & Ray 2010).
Sweden has, compared to other European countries, a relatively low proportion of pupils of early school leavers. In 2012, the figure stood at 7.5 percent, whereas the EU average was 12.8 per cent (Eurostat 2015). National statistics tell a different story. In 2013, almost 30 percent of all students did not complete the final grade in upper secondary school. Almost half of all pupils with a foreign background in Sweden left secondary school without complete grades. The corresponding figure for pupils with Swedish parents was 25 percent (National Agency for Education 2014).
Foreign background, especially in combination with parents with low education, often leads to a weaker position in the labour market, even when employed (OECD 2012, Rumbaut & Komaie 2010). The importance of the surrounding social structures, conditions and background factors have been repeatedly emphasized..
This study aims to deepen knowledge of young people with a migration background in Sweden, particularly those with non-European backgrounds, and their transitions from school to work. The focus is on young people with uncompleted upper secondary education drawing on their life stories, and exploring their perceptions and experiences around school failure, entering the labour market, and/or not being in education, employment or training (NEET).
Theoretically the study analyses individuals’ career decisions from an agency-structure perspective, drawing on careership theory, and the notions of pragmatic-rational choices, routines, turning-points and horizons of action (Hodkinson & Sparkes 1997, Hodkinson 2008), combined with theories on ‘otherness’ (Hall 1990, Anthias 2002, Balibar 2004), and the notion of socio-geographic space (Bourdieu 1999, Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1996).
The key questions were as follows:
- How do the young men and women describe their school years and the background behind why they did not complete their studies, as well as the period thereafter?
- What significance do the young attribute to informal and institutional support to facilitate the transition to work and independence?
- What differences, if any, are apparent from their stories and how can they be understood?
- What characterizes their horizons of action and how do they change over time?
- How do the structural conditions interact – ethnicity, class, gender, geographic location and migration – with individual agency in the transition from school to work for the young people?
Using these questions, highlighing how transitions between school and work are shaped in relation to the horizons of action that the young have access to and to investigate the interaction between individual agency and the "playing field", which consists of the surrounding social context and the structures that shape what is seen as optional, possible or impossible. The study contributes to the knowledge of young people with migration background, particularly those with a non-European background, their living conditions and the significance that social conditions and constructions of difference have for their career development in the “new” country.
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