9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN10 Sociology of Education

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Educational Structures II Building I, 2E8

School Quasi Market processes and actors' justification about differentiation

The school system in Belgium, and especially in Brussels, is organized as a quasi-market (Delvaux, 1999; Draelants and al., 2003; Dupriez and Vandenberghe, 2004; Maroy, 2007). In theory, the competition between schools should be expected to improve their effectiveness. However, Maroy (2006) has shown that this is not the case. Instead, schools are engaged in a process of complementary differentiation and not of competition. This leads to the specialisation of schools on the basis of their pupils characteristics. Some schools receive young people with school careers marked by lots of options changes, failures or exclusions. On the other hand of the scale there are schools that will only accept and keep, pupils achieving the highest academic standards. This situation leads to a two-tier system in which hierarchy and complementary differentiation are created and reinforced by reputations and the social representations (Maroy, 2006). These logics, although subjective, create significant demographic imbalances. Example of this would be the separation of school intakes by selection, educational segregation, limited heterogeneity within schools or classrooms and the keeping up of separate educational streams (Delvaux and Joseph, 2006). This leads to a dualisation along both social and ethnic lines. As an extension the analyses mentioned above, I intend to present the results of a research relating to discourses of both youth and institutional actors (Verhoeven, Delvaux, Rea, Martiniello, 2007). These discourses play a part in the reproduction of schools hierarchisation and at the same time they are a posteriori justifications of the hierarchy. A large proportion of the representations emerging from the discourses associate a high rate of foreign origin pupils with underperforming schools. In this view a good school is one with a mainly native demographic. There are, of course, some other criteria, however the main one is concerned with ethnic origin. This is deep-rooted in the actors' outlook as it has existed for a long period of time and no measure have been taken to prove it wrong. The recent attempts to modify the school choice system came up against a strong refusal based on the symbolic construction of the educational hierarchy