23 SES 08 A, School Integration Policies and the Idea of Participation (School Differentiation)
Today in Sweden, and in most other OECD countries, post-16 education is almost a general requirement for further establishment of the individual in adult life and for collective economic and social development (Olofsson & Östh, 2011; OECD, 2013). Over the last decades virtually all 16-19 year olds in Sweden have attended academic or vocational study paths within the school system of the “gymnasieskola. Within the post-war social-democratic welfare system policy-making in education aimed at reducing the impact of individuals’ social and economic background why formerly strictly separated study paths, which traditionally recruited youth of different social strata to different school establishments, in 1970 were integrated within the same structure of the “gymnasieskola” (Marklund, 1982; Sainsbury, 1996). Since the mid-1990s also vocational study paths have provided access to higher education. Parallel, new education and financing policies, in line with policies elsewhere for deregulation, decentralization and privatization (Whitty et al. 1998; Ball, 2007) have promoted individual choice along with the establishment of new, publically funded and privately run free-schools (also called “independent schools”).The current market oriented policies, even considered as unique compared to education policies in other countries (Chubb, 2007; Ministry of Education, 2006), have led to a broad expansion of free-schools and the establishment of a virtual school market with tough competition between all schools for student recruitment (Erixon Arreman & Holm, 2011; National Agency for Education, 2012).
Prior to the onset of new education policies the situation in the upper secondary sector was characterized by a vast array of local study paths of varying qualities (Lundahl, 2008; Ministry of Education, 2010), discerned evidence of too high grade-setting, or “grade inflation” (Vlachos & Hinnerich, 2012), and increased student drop-out (Governm. bill 2008/09:199). By a recent reform (valid from 2011) of the Conservative/Liberal/Centre/Christian Democratic government, the demands for eligibility to upper secondary education are strengthened (Swedish Parliament, 2009). The government suggests that the reform will raise the quality in teaching and student performance, contribute to equal standards of education provided at different schools, reduce drop-outs and raise the status of vocational tracks. Against this backdrop, the aims of this study are to explore how students in the last grade (grade 9) at compulsory school maneuver in the choice of school and study path of upper secondary education, including their perspectives on future education and occupational career.
The analytical framework includes theories on governance (Pierre & Peters, 2000; Pierre, 2010), careership (Hodginson & Sparkes, 1997), and the concepts of capital, habitus (Bourdieu 1994) and gender coded study paths (Larsson & Ohrlander, 2005).
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