23 SES 09 A, Contextualizing Opportunities for Educational Transitions: A comparative analysis from Belgium, Spain, the U.S. and the U.K.
This contribution discusses the transition from primary to secondary education in the Flemish context, an educational system characterized by rigid, hierarchical tracking and free track and school choice. These two system features appear to be especially detrimental for less advantaged pupils, because of differences in parents’ cultural capital (Reay, 2004) and cost-benefit calculations (Boudon, 1974; Breen & Goldthorpe; 1997). Leaning on quantitative and qualitative empirical data, we show how the existence of hierarchical tracks affects the decision-making process at the transition to secondary education. The data come from two research projects on educational choice at the transition from primary to secondary education in Flanders. Survey data were gathered during the months of May and June of 2016 from 1128 pupils in their last year of primary education in a sample of 36 primary schools in the cities of Antwerp and Ghent. Focus groups with pupils who had just made the transition to secondary education took place in two secondary schools in the autumn of 2009. Furthermore, we conducted interviews with 32 parents selected in four schools out of the 18 schools participating in the Transbaso research project, between November 2015 and January 2016, mostly at the parents’ homes. The educational choices made by students and their parents are not only informed by students’ ability and achievement, but social background proves to be a determining factor. The school choices of some – mostly middle class – parents constrain the options available to other – mostly working class and ethnic minority – parents. Because of the hierarchical and stringent tracks, free track choice leads to the tendency of making ambitious choices – aiming high. However, working class pupils’ choices tend to deviate from that general rule. In fact, working class pupils start more often in options that lead to technical education and the option of modern sciences
Boudon, R. (1974). Education, Opportunity, and Social Inequality: Changing Prospects in Western Society. New York (N.Y.): Wiley. Breen, R., & Goldthorpe, J. (1997). Explaining educational differentials: towards a formal rational action theory. Rationality and Society, 9, 275-305. Reay, D. (2004). Exclusivity, exclusion and social class in urban education markets in the United Kingdom. Urban Education, 39, 537-560.
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