CORDIS - EU research results

School Opportunity Structure and Student Achievement in Comparative Perspective

Final Report Summary - SCHOOL OPP STRUCTURE (School Opportunity Structure and Student Achievement in Comparative Perspective)

In this project (EU FP7–PEOPLE–2011–CIG 304148, School Opp. Structure) the fellow investigated the ways in which school opportunity structures shape access to the resources needed for higher achievement for the students in General High School (GHS) and Industrial Vocational High School (IVHS) comparatively in Turkey. Studies have showed that the strong separation of vocational education from general education mostly creates homogenous groups and causes social segregation in secondary education in various contexts. The fellow has further extended the scope of these studies to include the knowledge of the process, whereby segregation experiences through different school types are converted into pro-and-anti-school identities, de/motivation for educational under/achievement in daily interactions.

This study focused on schools and particularly showed how their working, organization, climate and practices shape pro-and-anti-school identity and educational under/achievement of students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.

This study was designed as longitudinal qualitative case study. Students in GHS and IVHS types at 10th year were selected and followed for three years period until their graduation. In addition to students, the fellow conducted interviews with teachers and school directors (and administrators) for three years period, too. The data collection was systematically supplemented by focus-group discussions and participant observations.

The main findings of this study can be grouped as two clusters; first cluster have mapped GHS’ and IVHS’ different institutional habitués in relation to tracking, curriculum, counseling, and expressive order of the schools in question – from the findings of the first reporting period. IVHS is mainly characterized by nontransparent and rigid tracking system, collectivized and ritualized counseling service, working class teacher profiles, non-academic curriculum, master-apprenticeship ethos in interactions and low teacher expectations. In return, GHS accommodates flexible tracking system, individualized counseling service, female middle class teacher profile, academic curriculum, meritocratic achievement ideology in interactions and high teacher expectations.

Second cluster have showed the ways in which students develop adaptations into, and internalize, these different institutional habitués of schools over time - from the findings of the second reporting period. In IVHS, the rigid tracking restrains students’ network of relations by their programs and this creates boring and repetitive school atmosphere, worn out and disengaged students, which accelerates the process of cooling out from school. This has led some students to dropping out of school in the ensuing years. The findings also demonstrated that institutional habitués of IVHS and GHS differently comply with local working class habitus of students. As IVHS’s institutional habitus is rooted in non-academic success of working class values, students in IVHS adapt into school environment easier and experience school as continuum of their local culture. By contrast, however, as GHS’s institutional habitus is rooted in academic success of middle-class values, students in GHS occasionally feel themselves estranged in school.

The results of the project are particularly relevant for researchers and policy makers. For researchers, the study shows the vital significance of structural constrains and opportunities outside of family for the formation of pro-and-anti-school identity and educational under/achievement. More research is needed to focus on non-familial factors. The greater role of institution over family constitutes the demonstration that while family resources such as cultural and social capital are difficult to intervene and change, schools, as institution, can be reorganized, reformed and changed. These findings support a more optimistic view of policy making in the field of education significantly. For instance, the findings clearly show that the rigid tracking is particularly harmful for academic achievement of students from low socioeconomic background as they bring low resources from their families.

In addition to the social and scientific impacts as such, this grant has extensively benefited the career development of the fellow. The fellow has published extensively on the findings of the project and has received the title of assistant professorship along with a number of prestigious national and international grants during his CIG project. Briefly, this grant highly benefited the scientific and career development of the fellow and facilitated the achievement of his career goals and his long-term integration into the host institution.