05 SES 08, Resilience
This study examines how high achieving Swedish students in families of lower socio-economic and low educational levels decode school practices and embark on a successful educational career. (parents are unemployed or are employed in low skill service sectors or single parents on welfare, Lareau 2003), while by lower educational levels we mean students from household with caretakers’ with no tertiary education. High achievers in this study are students that have above the average score in key subjects (Maths, Swedish and English) at the end of the first year of their secondary school experience. A large proportion of students that are classified as living in economically and culturally deprived households come from immigrant background.
A blind spot in Swedish research and internationally however is the growing percentage of high achievers from low income household (see Bernard, 2004; Fraser, 2004; Crul, & Heering 2008).These students challenge the idea that poverty, racism/discrimination and low educational performance are linked (Wyner et al., 2007). In educational literature, these students are referred to as educationally resilient. This research project, hence, builds on and seeks to expand upon the deficit explanatory model which explain the failure of these of students´ on their lack of cultural capital.
As implied above, theory holds that students from adverse conditions have difficulty to hurdle school practice (Biddle, 2000) and embark on a successful academic career because of their poor cultural capital or wrong habitus (Bourdieu 1977). The educational difficulties these children encounter in the educational system (in Sweden and in other countries) is well documented, however, far less attention has been given to student success. Hence, we focus on mechanisms and factors contribute to the educational success of students from adverse condition in their transition to tertiary education? Departing from this aim the research project addresses the following research questions:
- What types of social resources are/were accessed and how did they mobilise support in order to achieve a successful educational career?
- What kinds of obstacles have the students and parents encountered in this process and what strategies have they employed to overcome the obstacles?
- How do the students’ social resources interplay with the students’ specific background to enable their successful educational career?
Even if the project is carried out in Sweden, its results is valid also on an international level since, for example, many European countries share challenges that have impact on how education is structured and delivered. To tackle structural changes and challenges facing European countries such as poverty, low cultural capital, and social inequalities there is a need to build resilience, both on an individual as well and on a structural level.
Our analytical focus can allow us to shed light on the complex interplay between social and cultural resources activated by these students in their encounter with the school practices. The literature shows that there is a range of factors within the institution’s control that impact the retention of students, such as personal tutoring, study support, etc. (Cotton, Nash, & Kneale, 2017) However, levels of social and cultural capital are vital when it comes to seeking and making use of such institutional support. The networks between an institution and the student cannot be established without the confidence needed to sustain them, and these confidence levels can vary greatly depending on, for example, ethnicity of students (Cetin, 2016). The cultural and social capital of students is thus a vital factor in the formation of support networks. The analytical framework is inspired by Coleman (1988) and Bourdieu´s conceptualisations of social capital (1977) and these are: Ideational support, material support, and bridging support. Social capital as here seen as collective resources.
Our main method are interviews with students and their significant others, defined by the student. The students are interviewed 3 times, first time in their second year of upper secondary school, second in their last (3rd) year and the last time post-graduation. The significant others are interviewed in concordance with the second interview with the students. We have targeted secondary schools in areas, which are known as socioeconomic disadvantage areas and asking for a list of students that are higher achievers at the end of first year of their secondary education. We arranged meetings at the schools in which we informed them about the project and if they would like to participate they should fill a short questionnaire. The objective of this questionnaire was to identify students from household with low economic, and low levels of parental educational capital. At present we have 33 students in the first round, but we are still recruiting. The second round will be within a year matching the time when they are supposed to decide whether to enroll in Higher education or not. In the interviews the students are asked to create a visual map of their social network using pens and paper. This task followed by an interview with the students. The purpose of the interview is to let the student tell us how they managed to get high grades in school and how they use different resources (social, economic and cultural) in achieving well. We are in particular interested in who they went to for information for advice on school related activities. The information will a give us an idea which individuals are significant in their life and to highlight the intensity of the relationship how they relate to advice on school and school related issues. Ultimately, we are interested in study how the student themselves narrate their success.
The initial questionnaire gave us a preliminary view of the first pool of interviewees, which is a broad mix of students. They are 9 male and 24 female students, with different national backgrounds, both born in Sweden with both parents also born in Sweden, students born abroad as their parents or students born in Sweden but their parents born in different countries like; Iraq, Somalia, Kurdistan, Philippines, India, Finland, Norway, Russia, Syria, UK, Thailand, Hong Kong, South Korea and USA. Not surprisingly, the majority of the students state that their parents have been extremely supportive as well as an important support from teachers, friends, siblings, other adults at school. The next supportive layer of significant others are grandparents, friends to the family or relatives. For some students the sports coach or the priest/imam have been important and a few of the students states that they have achieved mostly by themselves while others almost filled in everyone in their social network as extremely or very important. In our paper we are going to present emerging results from the interviews in the content and meaning of the support they have got from different persons in their social network and use of other resources in their environment, like school utilities such as library or other study spaces and such.
Benard, B. (2004). Resiliency: What we have learned. San Francisco, CA: WestEd Biddle, B. J. (2001). Poverty, Ethnicity, and Achievement in American Schools. In B. JBiddle (Ed.), Social Class, Poverty, and Education (pp. 1-29) New York: Routledge Falmer . Bourdieu, P. (1977). Cultural Reproduction and SocialReproduction. In A. H. H. Jerome Karabel (Ed.). Power and Ideology in Education . New Cetin, C. (2016). Parental networks, ethnicity, and social and cultural capital: the societal dynamics of educational resilience in Turkey. British Journal of Sociology of Education Cotton, D. R., Nash, T., & Kneale, P. (2017). Supporting the retention of non-traditional students in Higher Education using a resilience framework. European Educational Research Journal , 16 (1), 62-79. Coleman, J. S. (1988). "Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital." American Journal of Sociology 94:95-120. Crul, M. & Heering, L. (ed) (2008). The position of the Turkish and Moroccan second generation in Amsterdam and Rotterdam: the TIES study in the Netherlands. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Fraser, M. W., Kirby, L. D., & Smokowski, P. R. (2004). Risk and resilience in childhood. Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal childhoods: the class, race, and family life. Berkeley: University of California Press. Wyner, J. S., Bridgeland, J. M., & DiIulio, J. J., Jr. (2007). Achievement trap: How America is failing millions of high-achieving students from lower-income families. Lansdowne, VA: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
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