Option blocks that block options: higher education aspirations and opportunity structures in secondary schools in England
University of Surrey, United Kingdom
Despite the expansion of the UK higher education sector in recent years, young people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds remain less likely than their advantaged counterparts to apply or be offered a place at university, and particularly at elite institutions. Governmental approaches to narrowing this gap have tended to revolve around the need to raise aspirations amongst disadvantaged populations. Drawing upon data collected as part of my ESRC funded doctoral research, this paper challenges the governments’ individualistic approach through highlighting that whilst young people have similar (high) aspirations for the future, they confront different opportunity structures within secondary schools which serve to ‘block’ or ‘unblock’ certain pathways. One of the main ways in which young people are identified as ‘university material’ is through their academic achievements. Their qualification type, subject choices and grades achieved are presented as illustrative of their personal hard work, ability level and commitment to a particular route. This paper provides an alternative to this narrative. Through exploring opportunity structures in three contrasting secondary schools in England (one private, one state in a wealthy catchment area and one in a socio-economically disadvantaged area), I highlight vast inequalities in access to demonstrating academic excellence. Whilst some schools provide an enhanced landscape of opportunities and immense support with making subject choices, others impose blocking systems upon subject slots which serve to restrict options and block futures. Overall this paper argues that young people’s academic outcomes must be viewed in context of the opportunities presented to them.
Adolescents and their vocational choices: between exploration and authenticity
1University of Lisbon, Portugal; 2Higher Polytechnic Institute of Santarém, Portugal; 3New University of Lisbon, Portugal
The obligation to attend school for increasing periods of time, which has transformed schooling into a crucial part of a young person's biography, underlines the importance of the institutional settings in which life trajectories unfold. At present, adolescent individuation takes place largely within the education system and is defined through various schooling options at the entry point to upper secondary education, as this transition implies the definition of a personal project.
Secondary education defies all social actors involved in this process, especially young people, but also those who try to «help» them choose, to work with a still-developing autonomous identity (of the adolescent) confronted with an “obligation” to define a future destiny – by means of a compulsory vocational choice.
In our contribution we confront this critical moment from two different points of view. On the one hand we examine the work of career guidance experts that act within school field. We highlight the plurality of guidance models and practices, some more career-based and employability oriented, and others valuing the building of life projects through exploration and more self-accomplishment oriented.
On the other hand we will try to show how this guidance is part of a wider set of influences and sources of information that result from young people participation in multiple social spheres.
Using data from a recently completed project, we intend to explore the adolescent tension between the obligation to choose, within a frame of constraints, with the ethical injunction to pursue authenticity and self-accomplishment.
Head First into Secondary Education? - Finnish Young People’s Hesitant Educational Choices
1University of Helsinki, Finland; 2Youth Research Society
In this paper, we present some preliminary results on young people’s processes of making educational choices from our study ’Youth in Time’. It is a qualitative longitudinal research project coordinated by the Finnish Youth Research Network, in cooperation with researchers from the universities of Eastern Finland and Helsinki. We have interviewed 125 young people, born in year 2000, from five research sites around Finland. We aim to follow the lives of the same young people for at least ten years, charting their transitions into secondary education and beyond. In this paper we focus on selected cases.
As young people face the institutional point of choosing options for secondary education, they use various types of rationales, some of which are based on their educational achievement, others based on their family histories and various sources of knowledge about professions. Others base their choices on friends’ choices and leisure time activities, and all have to take into account the local educational options available. In more remote areas, young people have to consider their resources in relation to moving to other localitites in order to reach viable schooling alternatives. The students’ choices are negotiated in relation to gender, parents’ educational background, ethnicity and local traditions. All these aspects will be presented using examples from our data.
Models for human development of the Russian youth in the region: necessary conditions and incentives
Institute of Economics & Industrial Engineering, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Federation
The purpose of the study is identification of incentives and conditions conducive to successful personal self-realization and professional self-determination (mainly in education and employment) of young people in the region on the example of students.
The empirical base consists of the data of monitoring sociological surveys in Novosibirsk region conducted by IEIE SB RAS. The latest were of undergraduate university and college students (2015/16 years, N=4670) and of senior school pupils (2014/15 years, N=1247).
The question in the inquiry about incentives to study was the most informative to identify the types of social behavior that contain the features of achievement in main spheres of students' activities. Consecutive using of methods of factor analysis (obtained 6 factors with explained variance 63.35%) and cluster analysis (obtained 6 cluster groups by k-means method): 2 of them was characterized as “achievement” model, 2 as “adaptation”, 1 “avoidance”, 1 – “mixed” model. We revealed the following factors that contribute to the allocation of the student in one of the 'achievement' cluster (by the binary logistic regression method): study in specialized classes, attendance of creative hobby groups during schooling, participation in almost all kinds of additional educational activities that contribute to the further entrance (usually at universities), confidence in their professional choice, focus on high quality when choosing educational institution for admission, the parents' authority in choosing of educational institution or similar parents' occupation to selected specialty, arriving for study to Novosibirsk from the cities of other regions.
Theories of human capital, human development, social inclusion and exclusion, transitions from school to work, theories of motivation and others are used in the research.