9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN10 Sociology of Education

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Social Inequalities II Building I, 2E6

The perceived (un)desirability of segregated schools: who really wants segregation?

Like in many other European countries, Belgium is dealing with a high degree of ethnic segregation in education. In Flemish cities especially, native and immigrant children seem to attend separate schools more than can be expected based on neighborhood composition. Still, hardly any sociological research has been done in Flanders on the causes of ethnic segregation, and the degree to which segregation is perceived as desirable or undesirable by parents of different socio-economic and ethnic groups. This means that little is known about the public support for a desegregation policy and that no empirical data are available to help design such a policy.

The fact that Flemish parents are free to enroll their child in the school of their choice, could suggest that parents prefer ethnically segregated schools. Segregation theories (especially those developed in the field of residential segregation) confirm that the individual preferences of the "choice makers" are indeed one of the important mechanisms that lead to segregation. On the other hand it is also shown that the individual choice makers do not always perceive the outcome of their combined choices as a desired situation. Therefore, the ethnic school composition as a motive for school choice will be investigated separately from the perceived desirability of segregated schools in general.

For the gathering of the data, a large sample of 2635 parents with a child in the first grade of the primary school was invited to fill in a standardized questionnaire. As the data gathering was in the final phase at the moment of writing this proposal, the results are still tentative. Generally, it is expected that social and ethnic segregation will be considered an undesirable situation, while at the same time ethnic school composition will play a role in individual school choice behavior. Furthermore, it is expected that the degree to which ethnic composition plays a role in individual school choice and the degree to which segregation is considered as (un)desirable, will differ according to the social-economic and ethnic background of the parents.