14 SES 04 A, Educational Trajectories of Young People – Attempts to Describe and Explain
In contemporary societies, structured by increased differentiation and the weakening of prescribed social roles, individuation – the process of construction of a biographical singularity (Beck, 1992) - is an experience as fundamental as it is problematic. According to authors such as Martuccelli (2006) and Breviglieri (2007) individuation is carried out in a succession of trials in which the choicesmade and decisions taken, in a greatly amplified space of freedom, have deep implications in peoples social destinies.
The obligation to attend school, for increasingly longer periods of time, has transformed schooling into a crucial part of any young person's biography. In that sense, adolescent individuation takes place largely within the education system, and is defined through several schooling options. This is particularly true when young people reach upper secondary education, as this transition implies, in the Portuguese context at least, the definition of a personal project. The large freedom of choice offered to pupils constitutes a major singularity revealed by the Portuguese education system, when compared to most European systems that impose several constraints at this respect. This means that adolescents, whose identity is still provisional, are challenged with the “obligation” to choose (a type of education/a type of course among all those offered by the education system) and to project themselves in the future.
This is a complex task. First of all, it requires resources (informational, relational and planning skills) and the active support of agents (namely, the family) that not all adolescents have at their disposal. This reinforces the importance of both support networks and social and economic resources (Reay & Ball, 1998).
Secondly, as this process occurs in a particular period of time – adolescence – generally characterized by the adhesion to exploration ethics and the building up of a doubtful self, this may lead to a tension between biographical rhythms (based on exploration) and institutional calendars (based on compelling decisions), necessary to progress through the linear, cumulative cycles in which education systems – and school achievement – are based. An unavoidable question therefore emerges: in which ways institutional temporalities (embedded in the set of norms that regulate education systems) match the timings of self-construction and the development of competencies and identities?
This exact tension was the basis of a research study carried on since 2008 in Portuguese upper secondary schools. The theoretical framework inspired the construction of a model of schooling trajectories, supported by quantitative and qualitative data drawn from an empirical study with pupils from the 10th and 12th grade. Our main objectives in this paper are:
· To analyse school trajectories at upper secondary education, discussing different temporalities and their relation to different concepts of individual e school achievement
· To grasp social regularities and singularities in each trajectory’ protagonists, in terms of the role of contexts, supports and resources
· To explore the ways how the different trajectories are built, by relating social contexts and values and vocational choices and decisions made
This will lead us to discuss the potential tensions between “self-achievement” and “school achievement”.
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