9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN10 Sociology of Education

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Social Inequalities III Building I, 2E6

Educational choice at the end of primary school. Does the primary school matter?

The study of educational choices at the end of primary school has been a recurring research topic in European educational sociology. Driven by a concern about the possible social reproductive character of educational systems, sociologists have been trying to disentangle the determinants of educational choice. To achieve this goal they have focused mainly on the relative importance of ascribed versus achieved characteristics of pupils. Both have been shown to affect educational choices, suggesting that the decision that has to be made at the end of primary school does indeed create social inequalities between pupils. This finding has been explained using the framework of relative risk aversion, social capital and cultural capital. Although these perspectives have been very helpful to get insight in how social inequality originates when making educational choices, we suggest it might be interesting to investigate if characteristics of the primary school help us to explain the decision making process.

There is, in fact, a long-standing tradition in sociology to conceive of the characteristics of organizations as influencing its members. The culture, structure and composition of organizations are thought to influence the individuals pertaining to these organizations. In educational sociology, this field of research is known as school effectiveness research. Whereas this kind of research has, in the past, mainly linked school characteristics to achievement outcomes, we contend that it might also be interesting to investigate the potential influence of school composition, structure and culture on the school?s pupils? choices.

It is our purpose to present an alternative model for the study of educational choice. A model that stresses the potential importance of school characteristics in a sociological explanation of educational decision making.