9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN10 Sociology of Education

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Social Inequalities in Education I Building I, 2E6

Selectivity and flexibility in the German secondary school system: a configurational analysis of recent data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP)

In Ralph Turner?s 1960 typology of educational systems, under sponsored mobility pupils are selected in competitive examinations at an early stage in their educational careers for an academic route allowing access to high social class positions. For those not selected it is difficult to catch up at a later point. Under the alternative norm of contest mobility opportunities are kept open for all for as long as possible. Allmendinger has built on Turner?s work, developing her own classification to include the dimensions of standardisation and stratification.

There is ongoing debate in many European countries about both equality of opportunity and the continuing wastage of talent, and the ways in which differing systems of secondary schooling contribute to these. Despite ongoing reforms, the German system still might best be described as sponsored and highly stratified according to Turner?s and Allmendinger?s classifications. However, there are growing concerns that the current system sorts children into educational pathways at too early an age, given that a child may not develop his/her potential until later and because evidence suggests that the sorting process is socially, not just academically, selective. The possibility of changing tracks does exist, but again, there is some evidence that this does not alleviate the early social inequality and may even reinforce it.

This paper has three aims. It describes the amount of flexibility currently in the German educational system, using a cohort of individuals born in 1988/1989 from the SOEP. Second, building on earlier work by ourselves and other authors, it analyses factors influencing whether individuals make use of the opportunities for changing track. Most earlier relevant work has used regression-based methods, but we use an alternative configurational approach, Ragin?s Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). QCA employs a Boolean approach. Instead of determining the net effects of supposedly independent variables, its focus is on establishing the configurations of necessary and/or sufficient causes or conditions associated with particular outcomes. Contrasting this case-based approach with the regression approach, and explaining our use of it, is our third aim.