23 SES 09 A, Market Ideas and Practices I: School Choice in Finland
Contemporary research on classed, ‘raced’ and gendered practices around families’ preferences and values over (basic) schooling, particularly as part of identity formation, is increasing (e.g. Byrne 2006, Vincent & Ball 2006, Raveaud & van Zanten 2007, Crozier ym. 2008, Vincent ym. 2008, Reay 2008, see also Skeggs 2004) and significantly connected to notions referring to locality, neighbourhood, geography or geodemography (e.g. Butler & Robson 2003, Ball ym. 2004, Savage ym. 2005, Reay 2007, Webber & Butler 2007). Based on this literature there are four issues that seem to be meaningful to consider in attempts to research parents’ actions or the necessity on what school their child attends and thus understand how school-choice-policies shape urban geographies of education. These are (1) social class fractions and their variation in lifestyles, values and attitudes and their likely links to occupational groups as well as families’ stability in belonging to a particular class; (2) social segregation or mix of residential areas and their demographic change, gentrification in particular, and how families identify themselves to certain localities and use space; (3) local norms, ethos and attitudes that emerge of and/or cause the concentration of families doing the same choice over a particular school; (4) defined market position of schools.
The objective of this paper is to investigate, wonder and discuss, whether it is possible to view Finnish urban families’ actions and thoughts of sending their 12-year-old child to lower secondary school through ‘classed practises’ and do these relate to neighbourhoods. ‘Classed practices’ are tentatively planned to be explored in the sense of tensions of similarity and difference between ‘others’ and ‘people like us’ (e.g Ball ym. 2004, Byrne 2006). An entire age cohort attends public comprehensive schools in Finland (besides there are very few independent schools in the capital city). Municipalities allocate a school place to every child, but pupils can apply to a school other than the allocated one. Urban schools have generated a variation of so called emphasised classes (mainly music, math, sports, arts, language) that select their pupils. The usage of school-choice-policies differs between cities. (Seppänen 2003.)
The paper focuses on the following questions: What kind of ‘classed practices’ do Finnish urban families use when their offspring transfers to the 7th grade of comprehensive school? How these (a) vary within and between possible identified class fractions, (b) connect to the social mix of the neighbourhoods families live in and (c) relate to the division of schools’ popularity?
This study is conducted in the city of Turku that is located in the South-West coast of Finland and is the fourth biggest city in the country with 175 000 inhabitants. Turku runs 11 lower secondary schools (five of them are governmentally part of uniform comprehensive schools for 1-9 grades) and promotes school-choice-policies. The data is connected to recently started research project named Parents and School Choice – Family Strategies, Segregation and Local School Policies in Finnish Comprehensive Schooling (2009-2012).
Ball, S.J., Vincent, C., Kemp, S. and Pietikainen, S. 2004. Middle class fractions, childcare and the ‘relational’ and ‘normative’ aspects of class practices. The Sociological Review, 52 (4), 478-502. Butler, T. & G. Robson 2003. ‘Plotting the Middle-classes: Gentrification and Circuits of Education in London’, Housing Studies, 18 (1), 5-28. Byrne, B. 2006. In search of a ‘good mix’: ‘Race’, class, gender and practices of mothering. Sociology, 40 (6), 1001-17. Crozier, G., Reay, D., James, D., Jamieson, F., Beedell, P., Hollingworth, S. & Williams, K. 2008. White middle-class parents, identities, educational choice and the urban comprehensive school: dilemmas, ambivalence and moral ambiguity British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29 (3), 261-272. Raveaud, M. & van Zanten, A. 2007. Choosing the local school: middle class parents' values and social and ethnic mix in London and Paris. Journal of Education Policy, 22 (1), 107-124. Reay, D. 2007. ‘Unruly Places’: Inner-city Comprehensives, Middle-class Imaginaties and Working-class Children. Urban Studies, 44 (7), 1191-1201. Reay, D. 2008. Psychosocial Aspects of White Middle-Class Identities Desiring and Defending against the Class and Ethnic ´Other' in Urban Multi-Ethnic Schooling. Sociology, 42 (6), 1072-1088. Savage, M., Bagnall, G. & Longhurst, B. 2005. Globalization and Belonging. London: Sage. Seppänen, P. 2003. Patterns of 'public-school markets' in the Finnish comprehensive school from a comparative perspective. Journal of Education Policy 18 (5), 513-531. Vincent, C. & Ball, S.J. 2006. Childcare, Choice and Class Practices: Middle-Class Parents and their Children. London, Routledge. Vincent, C., Ball, S. J. & Braun, A. 2008. ‘It’s like saying “coloured” ’: understanding and analysing the urban working classes. The Sociological Review, 56 (1), 61-77. Webber, R. & Butler. T. 2007. Classifying Pupils by Where They Live: How Well Does This Predict Variations in Their GCSE Results? Urban Studies, 44 (7), 1229-1254.
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