17 SES 02, Paper Session
Chile has been identified as one of the most unequal and segregated educational systems, in part as a result of market-based educational policies (Bellei & Vanni, 2015). But following the students’ demonstrations in 2006 and 2011, the country experienced a shift in its educational policies. Since 2014, Chile has been deep in a process of educational reform, with the goal of achieving a less segregated and more inclusive system. Prior to this reform, the school admission process at the primary and secondary levels was based on a selective system which left the admission criteria to the definition of each school, allowing the selection of students based on academic, social and economic criteria (Carrasco, Gutiérrez & Flores, 2017). Therefore, families had to exercise all their cultural, economic and social capital to be accepted in the school of their preference (Kosunen & Carrasco, 2016). Chilean literature has also shown that parents base their choices on non-academic features and use informal sources of information (Seppanen et. al., 2015). That system deepened social and educational segregation (Valenzuela, Bellei & De los Ríos, 2014).
The current reform replaces the old admission processes with a centralized online admission system, where parents rank their school preferences and are allocated to schools based on the Gale & Shapley algorithm (Abdulkadiroğlu, Che & Yasuda, 2011). Thus, the new school admission system (NSAS) is expected to neutralize selection practices from schools, while limiting the ways in which parents can mobilize their advantages to receive a spot in their preferred school.
The gradual implementation of the reform in Chile presents a unique opportunity to explore school choice and its related issues around educational justice. This new scenario pushes parents from different socioeconomic backgrounds to confront their ideas of educational justice (Wilson, 2015) and to take up a stance in regard to parents’ prerogatives, fair allocation of schools and social inclusion.
Therefore, the research question of this paper is: which are the educational justice discourses, moral dilemmas and disputes of parents who are choosing and applying to schools through the NSAS?
The study objectives can be synthesized as:
● To make an analytical comparison between theoretical definitions of justice and families’ discourses, detecting points of contact and contrast.
● To identify discourses around educational equality, social diversity and inclusion; along with moral dilemmas around meritocracy and social reproduction from the other.
● To contrast parents’ beliefs regarding the common good with their private interests concerning the personal wellbeing of their children.
● To identify the policy controversies among families from different socioeconomic backgrounds around the NSAS, reflecting on the social legitimacy of this policy so far.
Our theoretical scope covers issues of school choice and educational justice. Regarding school choice literature and its relation with parents’ discourses, these are in part understood and explained from the perspective of social reproduction theory (Bourdieu, 1986; Reay, 2004), where issues around social, cultural and economic capital prevail in opposition to rational choice assumptions (Hatcher, 1998). In the international arena, school choice research has shown how the intersectionality between social class, gender and race tend to add complexity to the definitions of school preferences (Rollock, Gillborn, Vincent & Ball, 2014).
In relation to educational justice literature, we consider the multidimensional nature of justice (Gewirtz, 2006), with some of its principles in inevitable mutual tension. In this case, we identify three main principles that may collide with each other: equal opportunity (Brighouse & Swift, 2014), compensatory justice (Schouten, 2012) and parental liberty (Tooley, 2010). We will identify tensions between these dimensions in parents’ discourses, while also paying attention to legitimate limits to what justice demands.
The design of this study is based on qualitative research methods, through in-depth interviews to parents who were in the process of school choice for one of their children in 2017, and, hence, were applying through the NSAS. We selected the semi-structured in-depth interview (Flick, 2009) as our research instrument, as it allows us to deepen understanding of a particular subject under a guided itinerary of questions, with the necessary flexibility to adapt the interview to particular circumstances or emerging topics that may arise. Regarding the design of the instrument for this research, the protocols address topics such as the family biographical context, educational visions, which schools are chosen, what information and criteria are considered for that choice and how much is known about the admission process and the policy purposes. The protocols are adapted and have two versions according to if the family has experience under the previous admission system, or if this is their first experience of choosing and applying to schools. The sample was defined to include families that (i) have experience with the previous school admission system, and families for whom this is their first experience choosing and applying to schools, (ii) from the main cities of the 5 regions (out of 15 across the country) where the system was implemented in 2017, and (iii) for each region it was sought that the sample include both families from areas that were socioeconomically segregated and mixed, and that families reside in areas with both public and private-subsidized schools. These areas were characterized through a geo-referential analysis based on census information and the national assessment system (SIMCE test). 80 families of different social context were interviewed in two moments, before the school application (September 2017) and after the families received the result from the SAS (December 2017). The analysis is based on a thematic analysis (Guest, MacQueen & Namey, 2011) through the coding of the main contents and reflections about topics of educational justice. The main codes analysed are concentrated in discourse related to the prerogative of school selection, the fairness of priority criteria in school assignment, the value of social diversity or social homogeneity in schools, the value of personal merit or equal access in the school admission process, among others related.
The expected outcomes can be summarized as: ● The generation of parents under study was entirely educated in the old selective and deregulated system, which relied heavily on the capacity of parents to make the best decisions for their children. Additionally, the extreme segregation of the system has reinforced apprehensions towards social mixture in schools. Therefore, we would expect strong cultural resistance and anxiety, expressed as feelings of loss of agency, perceptions of loss of control in the choice of a school for their children and complaints about a transfer of their prerogative as parents to the state bureaucracy. ● In relation to the NSAS, we would expect to see differences in parents’ discourses depending on different social class backgrounds, expressing dissimilar perceptions of harm or advantage, exclusion and inclusion, among which families are subjectively placed in relation to an uncertain future. Similarly, we will link their social and educational contexts to their preferences for different conceptions of justice. ● Regarding moral controversies related to educational justice; as NSAS is based on purposes of inclusion, social diversity and justice; parents will experience ambivalence regarding what is fair in relation to the country and society (where diversity and equality are accepted), in opposition to dilemmas of individual and private justice (where privilege, merit and social reproduction prevail).
Abdulkadiroğlu, A., Che, Y. K., & Yasuda, Y. (2011). Resolving conflicting preferences in school choice: The" Boston mechanism" reconsidered. American Economic Review, 101(1), 399-410. Bellei, C., & Vanni, X. (2015). Chile: The Evolution of Educational Policy, 1980-2014. Education in South America: Education Around the World, 179-200. Bourdieu, P. (1986). ‘The Forms of Capital’. In J. Richardson (ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood. Brighouse, H. & Swift, J. (2014). The Place of Educational Equality in Educational Justice. In: Meyer, K. (Ed.) Education, Justice and the Human Good. Fairness and equality in the education system, 20-55. New York: Routledge. Carrasco, A., Gutiérrez, G. & Flores, C. (2017). Failed regulations and school composition: selective admission practices in Chilean primary schools. Journal of Education Policy, 32(5), 642-672. Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research (4th ed.). London: Sage. Gewirtz, S. (2006). Towards a Contextualized Analysis of Social Justice in Education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 38(1), 69-81. Guest, G., MacQueen, K. M., & Namey, E. E. (2011). Applied thematic analysis. London: Sage. Hatcher, R. (1998). Class differentiation in education: rational choices?. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 19(1), 5-24. Kosunen, S., & Carrasco, A. (2016). Parental preferences in school choice: comparing reputational hierarchies of schools in Chile and Finland. Compare: a journal of comparative and international education, 46(2), 172-193. Reay, D. (2004). ‘It's all becoming a habitus’: Beyond the habitual use of habitus in educational research. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(4), 431-444. Rollock, N., Gillborn, D., Vincent, C. and Ball, S. (2014). The Colour of Class. London: Routledge. Schouten, G. (2012). Fair educational opportunity and the distribution of natural ability: Toward a prioritarian principle of educational justice. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 46(3), 472-491. Seppänen, P., Carrasco, A., Kalalahti, M., Rinne, R., & Simola, H. (2015). Contrasting Dynamics in Education Politics of Extremes. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Tooley, J. (2010). Moving from the Educational Equality to Improving the Education of the Least Advantaged. In: Haydon, G. (Ed.). Educational Equality. London: Continuum, pp. 96-129. Valenzuela, J. P., Bellei, C., & Ríos, D. D. L. (2014). Socioeconomic school segregation in a market-oriented educational system. The case of Chile. Journal of Education Policy, 29(2), 217-241. Wilson, T. S. (2015). Exploring the moral complexity of school choice: Philosophical frameworks and contributions. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 34(2), 181-191.
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