Academic or vocational? Decisions about continuing in education of majority and minority youth in Finland
Department of Sociology University of Oxford UK,
European minority youth have often been found to be disadvantaged in their educational attainment compared to the majority population. However, there is evidence to suggest that although this may be the case for educational performance, educational attainment may be a different matter. Minority youth tend to have more ambitious educational plans, and controlling for prior achievement, they have been found to continue in higher tracks and attain higher levels of education compared to the majority. This is also the case in Finland, where children of immigrants are more likely to continue in academic upper secondary education than vocational education, particularly when their prior school performance and family background are taken into account.
This paper presents results from mixed methods research including statistical analysis of register data as well as qualitative data obtained from interviews of both minority and majority youth. The quantitative data is based on samples of students completing compulsory education between 2000-2004 and distinguishes eight immigrant-origin groups, as well as mixed, unknown and three Finnish-origin groups. The main focus of the analyses is on the differences in continuing to academic (or general) upper secondary schools versus vocational upper secondary schools. Dropping out of education is also touched upon.
Results from the quantitative analysis are further explored with qualitative material from interviews. At least 24 students in their final year of comprehensive school have been interviewed on their decisions of where they want to study. Half of these students have an immigrant background and the other half is a matched sample of Finnish-origin students. Although both minority and majority youth tend to follow their personal interests when applying to upper secondary, minority youth tend to stress their parents' wishes to a large extent. The higher ambitions of minority youth are also evident in the interviews. Minority students tend to have a clearer idea of what they want to do and thus continue in general schools in order to have better chances of going to university and achieving their goal.
Results from both the quantitative and the qualitative research will be mirrored against similar research in other European countries.