23 SES 08 D, Responses to Student Need
The European population is rapidly changing more ethnically diverse. Although education systems have some widespread traditions meeting the diverse population, the educational performance and trajectories of immigrant youth in general tend to remain lower than for the native counterparts. Researchers have reached explanations for the underperformance from cultural diversities, linguistic difficulties, the problems of steering and guidance (Hegna, 2014; Ogbu & Simons, 1998), as well as different theoretical explanations of immigrant paradoxes and/or optimism (Kao & Tienda, 1998; Salikutluk, 2016; Jackson, Jonsson & Rudolphi 2012). In Finland, as in many other countries, young people with immigrant origin often have ambitious academic aspirations, but they seem to confront obstacles when making educational choices, finding functional pathways, or completing education (Kalalahti et al., 2017; Kilpi-Jakonen, 2011, Larja et al., 2015). The agency of young people is often bounded with structural and individual factors, calling for reflections and negotiations within families and schools, study counsellors and teachers (Brannen & Nilsen, 2002).
One of the key principles of the renowned Finnish education system is that after comprehensive education, all young people should have equal opportunity to undertake high-quality education and training. The same educational opportunities should be available to everybody irrespective of their ethnicity, migration background, gender, wealth, or place of residence. It is evident that during the nine-year compulsory basic education, the support and safety net generally works well: the standard deviation of learning outcomes between students is small, and only a small number of students leave without completing their (compulsory) comprehensive education (0.5%) (OSF, 2015). After the nine years of comprehensive education, the Finnish system diversifies into two non-compulsory branches and tracks students into general upper secondary schools and vocational upper secondary institutions. This transition is a high stakes situation in which educational opportunities diversify according to certain background factors, e.g. skills with the Finnish language.
Our research interest derives from the fact that although the stakes in transition are high for all young people, they are not equal to all. Transition to upper secondary education has been recognised as containing risks, especially for students with an immigrant background, who have been reported as having difficulties in becoming attached to the mainstream educational pathways. When comparing the immigrant-origin young people, they face a considerably greater risk of dropping out of education or remaining in various short-term training programs. Young people with an immigrant background end up becoming early leavers from education and training more often than their native counterparts (Larja et al., 2015), and the risk of being positioned outside education and the workforce is higher than for young people with a Finnish background.
The aim of our follow-up research project is to reach a comprehensive picture of the variety of educational trajectories possible for the youth of immigrant origin, compared with their native counterparts’ trajectories. In this presentation, our aim is to portray the diversity of young people in transition from lower secondary to upper secondary education. Although our study group share similar aspirations and expectations the last year of comprehensive school, the transition to upper secondary (general and vocational tracks) becomes more fragmented and multiple among the immigrant-origin young people. Besides the diversity of trajectories, we seek to understand the pathways to successful and unsuccessful transitions by portraying the experiences concerning adequate support and guidance, school attachment and considerations of dropping out of education. We ask: (1) do the educational expectations and transitions of the immigrant-origin youths in Finland correspond, (2) how well are transitions and attachment to upper secondary guided and supported, and (3) how are the non-linear transitions (within and between education and work) reasoned and experienced?
The mixed-method research draws upon comprehensive follow-up surveys and check-up-surveys conducted between 2015 and 2018 (total N = 4452015, ~60 % of coverage through the follow-up). The follow-up was launched during the final grade of the basic education and it ends 2018 when the young people are approaching the post-secondary transition. Additional thematic interviews (n=1122015, n~502018) and phone interviews are utilized to improve the coverage and interpretations of the data. By immigrant-origin youth, we refer to (1) first-generation immigrants, who themselves have been born abroad, (2) second-generation immigrants, whose parents have both been born outside Finland, and (3) youth from mixed-origin or multicultural families, i.e., a family consisting of a union between a person with immigrant origin and a native Finn (cf. Rumbaut 2004). The data was compiled as a selective sample (or homogenous purposive sampling, see e.g. Palinkas et al., 2015; Onwuegbuzie & Collins, 2007) from eight municipal lower-secondary schools located in large cities in southern Finland. Sampling was designed to include young people with both immigrant and Finnish backgrounds. Since the population with an immigrant origin in Finland is still quite small, the sampling was targeted for schools with higher proportions of immigrant-origin students. The selective sampling aimed also to reach and engage schools with different socio-economic positions (see Teddlie & Yu, 2007). Altogether the sample consists of 445 students (2015). Of these, 284 (64%, 148 girls and 136 boys) were Finnish-origin majority and 161 (36%, 84 girls and 77 boys) were youth with immigrant origin, that is, in broad terms, youth born abroad, youth whose parents were born abroad, or youth from mixed-origin or multicultural families. All participation was voluntary and schools, as well as the youths, are fully anonymised for the analysis. Consent was asked for all the students and their parent(s). Students can call off the interview and participation at any time. In this presentation, we focus on the comprehensive surveys for the first and the final years of the follow-up. These questionnaires covered the themes of school attachment, educational aspirations and future orientations, among other issues. We use multivariate methods to evaluate the differences between groups of young people (gender, immigration, the study track, for instance), hierarchical cluster analysis to profile the aspirations and experiences and qualitative analysis for the open-ended questions concerning reasons for dropping out of education or applying for a study place in another upper secondary education.
Generally, all the young people had quite successfully attached to upper secondary education, since the school well-being was good and students felt they had most often had the support they needed for the transition. Nevertheless, the survey and especially its open-ended questions expressed experiences of discrimination, bullying and inadequate support for learning. Based on our preliminary findings we also conclude that the immigrant-origin youth seemed to share more variation both in the educational expectation, as in attaching to upper secondary education. Although the youth had generally achieved the aspired upper secondary tracks quite well, among the immigrant-origin youth there was modestly more mismatching of the expectations and the destinations. Because there are also many preparatory additional routes for immigrant-origin youth, their transitions often became in the plural. Our findings portray a picture of the diversity in educational transitions: the young people with immigrant origin had more often faced ‘subtle mismatching’, ‘plural pathways’, learning difficulties and cultural differences in their transitions, although they generally felt attached to education. In our presentation, we discuss on the policy implications of these multiple transitions, new directions and negotiations young people with immigrant origin have. We highlight how in the ‘universalistic transition regime’ (Walther, 2006; Zacheus et al., 2017) like Finland, the guidance and support offer uniform and simple solutions, which might not be enough to meet the needs of the rich variety of experiences the young people with an immigrant background have, regardless of the volume of resources and support. When trying to establish accessible educational pathways for youth with an immigrant background, a more systematic and student-centred consideration of their diverse educational hopes, needs and the intersectional social dimensions is required.
Brannen, J. & Nilsen, A. (2002). Young people’s time perspectives: From youth to adulthood. Sociology, 36(3), 513–537. 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. Jackson. M., Jonsson, J. & Rudolphi, F. (2012). Ethnic Inequality in Choice-driven Education systems: A Longitudinal Study of Performance and Choice in England and Sweden. Sociology of Education, 85(2), 158–178. 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. Kao, G. & Tienda, M. (1998). Educational Aspirations of Minority Youth. American Journal of Education, 106, 349–384. Kilpi-Jakonen, E. (2011). Continuation to upper secondary education in Finland: Children of immigrnats and the majority compared. Acta Sociologica 54(1), 77–106. Larja, L., Sutela, H. & Witting, M. (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). Ogbu, J. & Simons, H.D. (1998). Voluntary and Involuntary Minorities: A cultural-ecological theory of school performance with some implications for education. Anthropolgy & Education Quarterly 29(2), 155–188. Onwuegbuzie, A.J. & Collins, K.M. (2007). A Typology of Mixed Methods Sampling Designs in Social Science Research. The Qualitative Report, 12(2), 281–316. OSF (Official Statistics of Finland). 2015. Discontinuation of education 2013. Helsinki: Statistics Finland. Retrieved from: http://www.stat.fi/til/kkesk/2013/kkesk_2013_2015-03-19_tau_002_en.html (March 2016). 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. Rumbaut, R.G. (2004). Ages, Life Stages, and Generational Cohorts: Decomposing the Immigrant First and Second Generations in the United States. The International Migration Review, 38(3) 1160–1205. Salikutluk, Z. (2016). Why Do Immigrant Students Aim High? Explaining the Aspiration-Achievement Paradox of Immigrants in Germany. European Sociological Review, 32(5), 581‒592. Teddlie, C., and Yu. F. (2007). Mixed Methods Sampling: A Typology with Examples. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(1), 77–100. Walther, A. (2006). Regimes of Youth Transitions. Choice, Flexibility and Security in Young People’s Experiences across Different European Contexts. Young. Nordic Journal of Youth Research 14 (2), 119–139. Zacheus, T., Kalalahti, M. & Varjo, J. (2017). Cultural minorities in Finnish opportunity structures. Research on Finnish society, 10(2), 132–144.
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