23 SES 10 A, Policies of School Choice 1
The research question of this paper is to analyse which factors act together, configurationally, to produce the success in admission, i.e. to get admitted into so called elite-schools. We focus on primary school level.
The importance of the socio-economic background in determining the educational outcome is well-documented in recent literature. Many authors (e.g. Woessmann et al. 2009; Betts & Roemer 2007) agree that the educational achievement of students should be independent of their family socioeconomic background. At the same time, education policy has shifted more towards choice policies in the European systems; by aiming for efficiency it has unintentionally created more inequality. The effect of the choice on equality is hotly debated in empirical and theoretical literature and it is shown that choice tends to cumulate advantaged background students into certain schools, creating not only positive peer effects, but also a negative externality for the rest of students. Thus, this increases the educational outcomes of advantaged students and vice versa.
In explaining the segregative mechanisms of choice there are generally speaking two groups of theories: Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory and rational choice approach. In the rational choice framework the mechanism of education decision-making contains the maximisation of expected returns, subject to constraints such as those deriving from income and/or ability. Bourdieu’s (1974) theory of capitals has included the claim that educational capital has to be combined with other forms of capital to receive its full economic and social returns. More generally, Glaesser & Cooper has argued that most theoretical argument in the sociology of educational choice implicitly or explicitly addresses nonlinearity and/or relations of necessity and sufficiency which are the basic building block for the configuarational approach.
The analysis using standard statistical procedure (logistic regression) (Põder & Lauri 2013) revealed that current Tallinn’s school choice mechanism is segregating. However, the interpretation of higher-order interaction effects (which were the effect of parental strategy ‘to live or register their address in the centre of city and attend elite prep-school’ indicating that there are two effective and influential strategies for getting accepted) did not allow us to explore the conjunctions of successful strategies. Fuzzy-set QCA enables to determine the different causal paths to succeed in educational choice process and to analyse which factors in which combinations contribute to the success.
By complementing our previous research with QCA analysis we contribute to the literature which explains the multiple causal paths of segregation in the case of school choice. Furthermore, we consider the findings interesting in a wider spectrum as well, as the ‘soviet-comprehensive’ school system’s path-dependency in combination with the recent educational choice policies, makes our natural experiment as the analogue to other East-European countries.
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