05 SES 05.5 PS, General Poster Session
General Poster Session
Finland has been held up as an ideal country for its comprehensive education system, which has excellent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) success. However, the PISA results are falling as well as showing growing differences between boys and girls, in addition to leaving behind pupils with immigrant backgrounds (OECD, 2016b). The rise of selective school classes and parental choice are leading to a system in which ‘capable’ parents make school choices for selective school classes for their children – who often are the ones with better school performance (Berisha & Seppänen, 2017). With such practices, the comprehensive education system, once considered equal and egalitarian, is fragmenting in an urban European setting. The goal of this paper is to examine the segregation of lower secondary schools, as well as neighbourhoods, by pupils’ school performance and neighbourhoods’ socioeconomic status (SES).
Over the past decades, social differences have grown globally between areas and groups of people due to overall societal development, and Finland is no exception in this regard (OECD, 2011; 2016a; Rasinkangas, 2013). Meanwhile school choice, as a part of neoliberal education policies, has been found by several studies to have acute consequences in many countries b. In New Zeeland, free school choice policies have resulted in severe segregation of schools (Gordon, 2003). In England the existence of choice as such has been questioned as many families cannot partake in the school choice markets – they simply have to accept the least bad option (Reay & Lucey, 2003). In addition to families, schools play a major role in the school choice markets as they fight for the best pupils (Broccolichi & van Zanten, 2000). In the neighbouring country of Sweden, school choice has been found to have a larger effect than residential segregation on the growing differences between schools with regard to secondary school performance (Östh, Andersson, & Malmberg, 2013). Due to the freedom of choice introduced into Sweden in the early 1990s, schools have become increasingly segregated as the pool of students they attract has become more homogeneous, with students seeking the company of like-minded students, and the inclusion of a diverse student body being forgotten (Dovemark & Holm, 2017; Holm 2013).
In Turku, the sixth largest city in Finland and the study context of this paper, a major force in creating differences among schools and school classes is ‘emphasised teaching’ (Lempinen, Berisha, & Seppänen 2016). Emphasised teaching is carried out classrooms, in which certain subjects, e.g. languages, science or arts, are emphasised in the teaching regularly. Pupils are selected to these school classes via testing or previous school success, and the effects can be seen especially on the school class level as the classes differ greatly from one another in terms of school performance (Berisha & Seppänen, 2017). Additionally, socioeconomic differences between neighbourhoods within Turku have increased in recent decades (Rasinkangas, 2013). In the capital city of Finland, Helsinki, school choice has been connected to both school performance and neighbourhood segregation (Bernelius & Vaattovaara, 2016).
The research questions to study the segregation of schools and neighbourhoods are: 1. Would the composition of pupils in schools differ with regard to school performance and neighbourhood SES prior to and after school choice (hypothetical neighbourhood allocation versus current state)? 2. How do schools differ in terms of pupils’ school performance and neighbourhood SES, as well as in popularity and attractiveness (= school profiles)? 3. What does the flow of pupils look like – from where to where, and who are moving? 4. How does the neighbourhood SES of pupils impact their participation in selective school classes or school performance?
The main data consisted of the pupil registry of one age cohort of 13-year-olds at the end of 7th grade, collected in the spring of 2013. The data included 1314 pupils, 672 girls and 642 boys, of which 1150 spoke Finnish or Swedish as their mother tongue and 164 had another mother tongue. The pupils were distributed among 59 school classes in 13 schools. From this data, it was possible to measure pupils’ school performance based on their end-of-year certificates (scale 4–10). Also, their neighbourhood school allocation was determined, as well as the school they actually attended. From the data, the averages of school performance were calculated, as well as the attractiveness and popularity of schools. Schools were divided into three categories – high, average and low – on the basis of performance, attractiveness and popularity. The division was made according to the averages of these variables. Another dataset was collected to determine pupils’ socioeconomic backgrounds. For this, comprehensive data based on the population statistics of the city of Turku at the end of 2012 was used. The unit of the data is ‘statistical small area’ and the city of Turku has 129 of them. Three variables were considered to determinate the SES of each neighbourhood based on higher education, income and unemployment. The statistical small areas were divided into four groups based on these values using quartiles. After each statistic small area was assigned to a group based on all three variables, an average was calculated, which then determined the final neighbourhood SES status. Thus the socioeconomic status attached to the pupils is based on the neighbourhoods they lived in. Unfortunately it is impossible to track down individual SES information as it is not collected on a personal level by anyone. Thus the population statistics on the scale of neighbourhoods provide the best information available. With a questionnaire personal data could be attained to a certain point but the data would be based on personal evaluations as well as the answer rate would never reach 100%. The datasets were analysed statistically using cross tabulations, chi square test, Wilcoxon signed-rank test and paired sample T-test in IBM SPSS program. Also a chord diagram was created in Microsoft Excel to demonstrate the flow of pupils between schools.
The results show that Finnish schools are segregated in urban setting. When looking at the schools before and after school choice, differences based on choice were not created at the school level. Instead, schools were already segregated in terms of school performance and neighbourhood SES of pupils due to the diverse nature of politically drawn catchment areas. Furthermore, choosing created big differences among school classes within schools in Turku, and Kosunen et al. (2016) have reported the same phenomenon in the capital region. The schools with high and low profiles operate in highly differentiated environments and have pupils with distinctively different levels of school performance and neighbourhood SES. Highly selective school classes were strongly represented in high-profile schools, as were positive flows of pupils. Highly selective school classes form a very strong mechanism for segregating pupils, as they require aptitude testing and/or good grades, which means 1) pupils need to already have good grades in certain subjects, 2) pupils are ‘naturally’ talented in certain subject areas and/or their parents have the means to train and prepare them, and/or 3) parents must be aware of the available possibilities and have the information needed to sign up for and participate in testing. Thus parents’ activity and access to knowledge play an important role in the process, and parents’ attributes in this regard are connected to their socioeconomic status (Alegre & Benito, 2012). The pupils with the best school performance seek selective school classes. The Finnish local education authorities have articulated that the parental demand for emphasised teaching is so strong nowadays, it has ‘become a necessity in its own right’ (Varjo & Kalalahti, 2018). However, it is important to consciously consider what criteria are used when deciding on schools’ catchment areas and the location of selective school classes.
Alegre & Benito (2012). “The best school for my child?” Positions, dispositions and inequalities in school choice in the city of Barcelona. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 33(6), 849–871. doi:10.1080/01425692.2012.686896 Berisha, Rinne, Järvinen, & Kinnari (2017). Cultural Capital, Equality and Diversifying Education. In Kantasalmi & Holm (Eds.), The State, Schooling, and Identity: Diversifying Education in Europe (149–172). Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-1515-1 Berisha & Seppänen (2017). Pupil selection segments urban comprehensive schooling in Finland: Composition of school classes in pupils’ school performance, gender, and ethnicity. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 61(2), 240–254. doi:10.1080/00313831.2015.1120235 Bernelius & Vaattovaara (2016). Choice and segregation in the ‘most egalitarian’ schools: Cumulative decline in urban schools and neighbourhoods of Helsinki, Finland. Urban Studies, 53(15): 3155–3171. doi: 10.1177/0042098015621441 Broccolichi & van Zanten (2000). School competition and pupil flight in the urban periphery. Journal of Education Policy, 15(1), 51–60. Dovemark & Holm (2017). Pedagogic identities for sale! Segregation and homogenization in Swedish upper secondary school. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 38(4), 518–532. doi:10.1080/01425692.2015.1093405 Gordon (2003). School Choice and the Social Market in New Zealand: education reform in an era of increasing inequality. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 13(1), 17–34. Holm (2013). A sea of options. Nordic Studies in Education, 33(4), 284–299. Kosunen, Bernelius, Seppänen, & Porkka (2016). School Choice to Lower Secondary Schools and Mechanisms of Segregation in Urban Finland. Urban Education, advanced online publication. doi:10.1177/0042085916666933 Lempinen, Berisha, & Seppänen (2016). Inkluusion ja kouluvalinnan dilemma – Oppilaan tuen taso ja yläkoulujen oppilaaksiotto Turussa. Kasvatus, 47(2), 125–138. OECD (2011). Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising. Paris: OECD Publishing. doi:10.1787/9789264119536-en OECD (2016a). Inequality Update 2016 "Income inequality remains high in the face of weak recovery”. OECD (2016b). PISA 2015 Results (Volume I): Excellence and Equity in Education. Paris: OECD Publishing. doi: 10.1787/9789264266490-en Rasinkangas (2013). Sosiaalinen eriytyminen Turun seudulla. Tutkimus asumisen alueellisista muutoksista ja asumispreferensseistä. Turku: Siirtolaisinstituutti. Reay & Lucey (2003). The Limits of ‘Choice’: Children and Inner City Schooling. Sociology, 37(1), 121–142. Varjo & Kalalahti (2018). The art of governing local education markets – municipalities and school choice in Finland. Education Inquiry, advanced online publication. doi:10.1080/20004508.2018.1514907 Östh, Andersson, & Malmberg (2013). School Choice and Increasing Performance Difference: A Counterfactual Approach. Urban Studies, 50(2), 407–425. doi:10.1177/0042098012452322
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