Well-being of ethnic minority pupils in Flanders
Applied Economics Hasselt University Diepenbeek, Belgium
Most research in the field of education focuses on the impact of certain factors on individual study performance. Studies on education and ethnicity therefore mainly focus on the gap between ethnic minority and ethnic majority school performance. This research project however will focus on differences in well-being at school between ethnic majority and minority pupils. Research clearly indicates that performance and well-being at school are mutually dependent. The PISA 2003 study showed that the largest gap in mathematics performance in the world exists in Belgium. Since ethnic pupils tend to perform less well at school, it is expected that they will feel less well at school than non-ethnic pupils. But looking at existing research, they hardly do. Why is this?
To answer this question a quantitative design was used. The research project collected survey data from 7087 pupils from eight secondary schools in Flanders. The written questionnaire was completed by the pupils in the classroom. The questions were all part of a number of scales on well-being in general or in a particular area of school education: school level, class level, pressure and learning programme, friendship, behaviour, parental involvement, choice of curriculum. Ethnic origin was measured both by birth country of the ancestors and by mother tongue. In this way differences in well-being between ethnic groups can be established by generation, by country of origin and by native tongue.
Analysis uncovered a limited but significant difference in general well-being between ethnic majority and ethnic minority pupils. But rather than a direct ethnic influence, this difference appears as the consequence of weak performances and an orientation towards technical and vocational education among ethnic minority pupils. Behind this limited difference in general well-being a number of hidden processes emerge. Ethnic pupils tend to feel less well as to the more academic aspects of school life but they feel better as to a number of social aspects. Here some ethnic influences emerge. So ethnic pupils barely feel worse at school in general but they feel differently.