14 SES 06 A, School-related Transitions Within a Life Course Perspective – Early Phases
Parallel Paper Session
The persistence of inequalities in educational attainment despite massive educational expansion has been one of the major concerns in European education research during the past decades (e.g. Blossfeld and Shavit, 1993; Breen, 2009). Researchers generally agree that class differentials in educational attainment are due to differences in scholastic achievement, on the one hand and differences in educational choice, on the other hand. The latter have received wide attention among European education scholars as parents along with their children have to choose between mutually exclusive tracks at a fairly young age in most European education systems. Several studies have shown that working class parents do less often opt for the more demanding –academic- tracks in secondary education than service class parents, even if their children achieved equally well (e.g. Ditton and Krüsken, 2006, for Germany; Jaeger, 2009, for Denmark; Kloosterman, et al., 2009, for the Netherlands). Researchers have tended to explain these differentials by referring to differences in the amount of cultural, economic or social resources parents of pupils possess. In recent years rational action theory has become the predominant theoretical framework in research on socioeconomic differences in educational choice, witness the growing number of studies inspired by this theoretical perspective (Hatcher, 1998). Rational action theories explain inequalities in educational choice by referring to the different cost-benefit calculations parents with different socioeconomic status arrive at when faced with an educational decision (Goldthorpe, 1996; Breen and Goldthorpe, 1997). Whereas for a working class child it may suffice to enrol in some form of technical or vocational education, for a child stemming from a service class family, on the contrary, only academic education is a viable option. However, very little, if any, research has been taking into account features of the primary school in explaining this social inequality in educational choice. Yet, educational decisions are not taken in a social vacuum, for pupils’ preferences are socially constructed through interaction with peers and other significant persons. We might hypothesize that the composition of pupils’ peer groups in primary school may impact on pupils’ choices. In present study we aim to test empirically by means of multilevel analysis whether and how the association between socioeconomic background and educational choice at the transition from primary to secondary education in Flanders—the northern Dutch-speaking part of Belgium—is affected by the socioeconomic composition of the primary school.
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