05 SES 02, Migrants' Experiences and Trajectories
The issues of educational achievements and choices, and which social positions they make available for a person in his or her life are classical questions of sociology of education. Transitions from one level of education system to another, as well as the trajectories from education to work, “are structured by socio-economic factors and institutional structures of formal education, while they are, at the same time, appropriated by individuals in their biographical constructions” (Walther et al., 2015, 351). According to Banks and his colleagues (1992), trajectories, as patterns to career, are most dependent on the background characteristics of the young people, such as social class, gender, ethnicity, geographical location and level of academic achievement. Nevertheless, trajectories are not solely structural. In terms agency, the development of life-designing skills is based on concrete, authentic experiences, which include other people and relationships (Vanhalakka-Ruoho, 2010).
The aim of this presentation is elaborate the ways in which envisioned post-comprehensive transitions of young people of approximately fifteen years are constructed. Based on the analysis of qualitative interview data (n = 112) with both immigrant- and Finnish-origin youth at the final ninth grade of their comprehensive education, patterns of trajectories and reasoning behind them are recognised with regard to the destinations they aim and the types of educational choices young people are intending to do. Our research questions are: (1) What kind of patterns of transitions and trajectories young people of immigrant and Finnish backgrounds have, and (2) How young people reason their envisioned post-comprehensive transitions and trajectories?
Approaching educational transitions through trajectories enhances the interaction of structures and individuals to the institutional settings, individual resources and biographical experiences and orientations of the young (Stauber & Walther, 2002). Especially, the transitions of young people of immigrant origin has been considered to be challenging in multiple ways. Also in the Finnish context, young people of immigrant origin have often ambitious academic aspirations, but they seem to confront obstacles when making educational choices according them, finding functional pathways to them, or completing them (see e.g. Larja et al., 2015; Kalalahti et al., 2017; Kilpi-Jakonen, 2011; Myrskylä, 2011).
According to Hegna (2014, 593), young people’s educational aspirations reflect their subjective perceptions of personal capabilities and external opportunities, which are influenced by personal and societal characteristics, such as gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Ogbu (1978) argue that children of subordinate minority groups see that efforts in school frequently do not have the same outcomes for members of their group as do similar efforts for members of socially dominant groups. Hence, they, arguably for rational reasons, perceive the opportunity structure differently from socially dominant groups, and, thus, tend to put less effort into their schoolwork. What remains unexplained, is why they held generally favourable attitudes toward education despite of their underperformance (Mickelson, 1990)?
According to Mickelson (1990), one way to approach this paradox is to conceptualise beliefs about education as multi-layered. First, young peoples’ views on education take the form of abstract attitudes, based on the common comprehension of education as the vehicle for social mobility and the panacea for relieve of poverty and unemployment, among others. The second belief system, concrete attitudes, is class-, gender- and ethnicity-specific, grounded in the different realities that people experience. Concrete attitudes reveal young peoples’ perceptions of conceivable returns on education in certain opportunity structure. Consequently, and as Nowotny’s (1994) concept of the ‘extended present’ suggests, the notion of planning for the future may be altered by the experience of the present. In the analysis, we approach the envisioned educational transitions from the analytical perspectives of abstract and concrete attitudes.
In this presentation, we analyse interviews (n = 112) with both immigrant- and Finnish-origin youth at the final ninth grade of their comprehensive education. At this 'fateful moment' (Giddens, 1991) the joint application for upper secondary education was still ahead, but the final choices had not yet been made. Our data were collected as a selective sample (Palinkas et al., 2015) from three lower secondary schools from the city of Turku and five from the Helsinki metropolitan area. The sampling aimed to reach schools and students equally with immigrant and Finnish origins, as well as with different socioeconomic backgrounds (see e.g. Teddlie and Yu, 2007). To protect the anonymity of the schools, we have not revealed their names or specific locations. The interviews consisted of 54 young people of Finnish origin and 58 youth of immigrant origin, 66 girls and 46 boys. There were 26 youth who were first-generation immigrants: nine of them were born in Eastern Europe, two in Western Europe, and seven in Asia, four in Africa, and one in South America. Three students did not tell us where they were born. Of the interviewees, 32 were second-generation immigrants. There were twelve young people with African, ten with Eastern-European, and nine with Asian, plus one of Oceanian origin. The interviews were held at schools during the school day. The interviews lasted from 30 to 60 minutes. They were voluntary and the students were told that they could stop the interview at any time. The researchers asked some opening questions on themes of choice and destination, but the students were free to talk about their experiences without any tight structure. The theory-driven analysis consisted of two phases. The first, content analysis, focused on understanding on students' decision making whilst applying to upper secondary education; whilst the second, thematic analysis, aimed at reconstructing the young people's envisioned trajectories from education to work. Drawing on Walther and his colleagues (2015), two dimensions were taken as central factors of for the identification of various patterns of trajectories: current choices concerning the transition to upper secondary education, and envisioned destinations on systems further education and work.
The analysis of educational trajectories, scrutinised as choices and destinations, reveals that especially girls of immigrant background aim typically to academic prestigious professions and professional fields. Unlike the most of their native counterparts, the youth of immigrant background also try to attain to expert positions, which are typically qualified with university of applied science/bachelor's level diploma. In this respect the findings support the common comprehension of youth of immigrant background as professionally high-aiming young people Correspondingly, at the final year of their compulsory education, youth of immigrant background are typically not aiming for occupations which are qualified by vocational education. Arguably, in many cases vocational education is considered as avoidable among the families of immigrant background. Nevertheless, it is important to notice that a considerable number of youth of immigrant background, especially girls, are applying to vocational education without detailed plans concerning career or employment. In this respect, the loose and ill-defined group of 'youth of immigrant background' is apparently a divided to those who have career goals as high-educated professionals, and, to those who drift into vocational school without plan for their forthcoming career. The analysis of choices and destinations reveals the multiple ways in which reasoning of educational trajectories is based on partial information, located commonly in the familiar and the known. The reasoning is context-related, and could not be separated from the family background, culture and personal life histories. Decisions on choices and destinations were only partially rational, being also influenced by feelings and emotions. Finally, decisions often involved accepting one option rather than rationally choosing between many.
Banks, M., Bates, I., Breakwell, G., Bynner, J., Emler, N., Jamieson L. & Roberts, K. 1992. Careers and Identities: Adolescent attitudes employment, training and education, their home life, leisure and politics. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Cuconato, M. & Walther, A. 2015. 'Doing transitions' in education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 28, 283-296. Giddens, A. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge: Polity Press. Hegna, K. 2014. Changing educational aspirations in the choice of and transition to post-compulsory schooling - a three-wave longitudinal study of Oslo youth. Journal of Youth Studies, 17(5), 592-613. Kalalahti, M., Varjo, J. & Jahnukainen, M. 2017. Immigrant-origin Youth and the Determination of Choice for Upper Secondary Education in Finland. Journal of Youth Studies 20(9), 1242-1262. Kilpi-Jakonen, E. 2011. Continuation to Upper Secondary Education in Finland: Children of Immigrants and the Majority Compared. Acta Sociologica, 54(1), 77‒106. Larja, L., Sutela, H., and M. Witting. 2015. Ulkomaalaistaustaiset nuoret jatkavat toisen asteen koulutukseen suomalaistaustaisia harvemmin [Immigrant-origin youths do not continue to upper secondary education as often as Finnish-origin youth]. Helsinki: Statistics Finland. Retrieved from: www.stat.fi/tup/maahanmuutto/art_2015-11-02_001.html (March 2016). Mickelson, R. 1990. The Attitude-Achievement Paradox among Black Adolescents. Sociology of Education, 63(1), 44-61. Myrskylä, P. 2009. Koulutus periytyy edelleen. [Education is still inherited]. Hyvinvointikatsaus (1). Helsinki: Statistics Finland. Nowotny, H. 1994. Time. The Modern and Postmodern Experience. Cambridge: Polity Press. Ogbu, J. U. 1978. Minority Education and Caste. New York: Academic Press. Palinkas, L., Horwitz, S., Green, C., Wisdom, J., Naihua Duan, M. P. H. & Hoagwood, K. 2015. Purposeful sampling for qualitative data collection and analysis in mixed method implementation research. Adm Policy Ment Health, 42(5), 533-544. Stauber, B. & Walther, A. 2002. Introduction: Young Adults in Europe - Transitions, Policies and Social Change. In A. Walther & B. Stauber (eds.) Misleading Trajectories. Integration Policies For Young Adults in Europe? (pp. 11-26). Opladen: Leske + Budrich. Teddlie, C. & Yu, F. 2007. Mixed methods sampling: A typology with examples, Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(1), 77-100. Vanhalakka-Ruoho, M. 2010. Relational aspects in career and life-designing of young people. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 10(2), 109-123. Walther, A., Warth, A., Ule, M. & Du Bois-Reymond, M. 2015. "Me, My Education and I": Constellations of Decision-Making in Young People's Educational Trajectories. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 28(3), 349-371.
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