ERG SES H 13, Social Justice and Education
In Europe, segregation in the field of basic education causes concern as growing differences in learning results, available resources, and student backgrounds between schools are associated with exacerbated inequities and negative impacts on students attending lower tracks and more disadvantaged schools (c.f. OECD, 2012). School status has been found relevant, among other things, to student outcomes (e.g. OECD, 2010; Sirin, 2005), students’ academic self-concepts (Huguet et al., 2009), and future expectations (Montt, 2012). In this paper, the socio-economic status of a school refers mainly to the socio-economic background of its student population, but is connected also to other factors, such as the share of students with immigrant background, school location, and the reputation of the school. The extent to which schools differ from each other in this regard varies between countries depending to a large extent on the organisation of schooling and regulation of educational trajectories (Tikkanen, Bledowski, & Felczac, 2015), as well as implementation of market-oriented neoliberal education reforms – especially free school choice policy, which has been shown to intensify societal and ethnic segregation (e.g. Reay & Lucey, 2003; Seppänen, Kalalahti, Rinne, & Simola, 2015).
In international comparison, Finland is an interesting case as it differs from most of the other countries, which have implemented the free school choice policy, in that the policy was introduced into an exclusively publicly funded, comprehensive school system (Seppänen & Rinne, 2015). As a result of the Finnish free school choice policy, which contributes to the polarisation of the youth by increasing selection within school levels (Kosunen, 2014; Seppänen et al., 2015), there is systematic growth in the differences between schools in learning results and socio-economic compositions, especially in urban areas of the country (e.g. Kuusela, 2012). Hence, even though the Finnish education system is widely referred to as highly equal, often as an aftermath of its frequent PISA success, the processes of segregation of comprehensive schools have clearly started also in Finland.
The aim of this paper is to analyse if and how the socio-economic status of the lower secondary school is related to parents’ satisfaction with different aspects of school and schooling in urban Finland. Here, parental satisfaction offers a perspective to the extent to which the segregation of basic education affects the everyday school life and wellbeing of lower secondary school students. As parents’ own education level is relevant to their school satisfaction, as those with higher education level have been observed to be more satisfied (Räty, Kasanen, & Laine, 2009), also the level of parental education is, to control its effect, taken into account in the analysis. Friedman, Bobrowski, and Geraci (2006) have proposed a conceptual model of parental satisfaction with schools, which includes a number of factors, such as school safety, budget, teacher effectiveness, quality of curriculum, facility, communication with parents, and student achievement. In this study, using the model by Friedman et al. as a theoretical backdrop, three dimensions of parental satisfaction, child’s school wellbeing, cooperation between school and home, and child’s school satisfaction and learning, are analysed across socio-economically affluent, average, and disadvantaged Finnish lower secondary schools.
The data of this study were collected within a Governance of Educational Trajectories in Europe (GOETE) research project. The GOETE project involved eight EU countries including Finland, and it was concerned with understanding how education systems deal with the changing relationship between education and social integration (see Parreira do Amaral et al. 2011). In the study presented here, the participants are 295 parents of 14- to 15-year-old lower secondary school ninth grade students from three Finnish cities (Helsinki, Turku, and Tampere). Lower secondary schools were the main sampling unit selected at random from a sampling frame, and parents of students from two classes per school were surveyed in 2010 and 2011. The sample was stratified into three categories according to the socio-economic context of the schools; the categories are disadvantaged, average, and affluent. Six schools from each city were selected so that each category was represented by two schools per city. The main criteria for classifying the schools were the socio-economic structure and unemployment level of the schools’ catchment areas. The GOETE project developed the questionnaire that was used to survey the parents in order to assess their views in relation to school choice, progression, problems and support experienced to date as well as their expectations and their efforts for their child’s future educational and employment career. The methods of analysis in the present study include exploratory factor analysis (EFA), confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), and MIMIC modelling. First, the underlying relationship between 19 measured variables related to parents’ views on child’s school was examined with EFA. Secondly, the factor structure was further modified and verified with CFA. In the final factor model, 15 measured variables formed three latent factors: child’s school wellbeing, home-school cooperation, and child’s school satisfaction and learning. Lastly, the socio-economic status of the school and parental education level were added to form a MIMIC model to analyse whether there are differences in parents’ school satisfaction based on their own education level and/or the socio-economic status of the school their child attends (fit indices of the model: χ2 (107) = 202.38, p < .001, RMSEA = .06, SRMR = .04, CFI = .94, and TLI = .93).
The results of this study showed that parental education was statistically significantly connected to their satisfaction with home-school cooperation: the higher their education level was, the more satisfied they were. However, parental education did not contribute to their satisfaction with child’s school wellbeing or child’s school satisfaction and learning, i.e., parents were equally satisfied with their children’s schools despite their own educational background in this regard. The socio-economic status of the school was a statistically significant predictor of parental satisfaction with both home-school cooperation and child’s wellbeing at school. The higher the socio-economic status of the school was, the more satisfied the parents were. As with parental education, the socio-economic status of the school was not associated with parental satisfaction with child’s school satisfaction and learning. These results provide further evidence on the segregation of basic education in Finland and, at the same time, show that, according to the parents, lower secondary school students enjoy school and learn in there equally well despite the schools’ socio-economic statuses.
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