France: School success doesn’t only depend on school – here’s the proof in numbers

New studies are taking stock of how inequalities outside school influence the course of students.

We knew that the typical day of a student at Clichy-sous-Bois is not really the same as that of a student from the centre of Paris, mainly because of different life conditions: parents absent more oftne, bigger families, lower education level of parents, etc.

A study by SIRIUS French national partner AFEV, released on 24th September, which includes more than 600 children enrolled in CM1 and CM2 in the priority education network and in city-centre schools, tells us precisely the extent of the gulf between these two worlds. It portrays a school strongly marked by “spatial segregation”, explains Nina Schmidt of the Inequality Observatory.

Children who go to school in institutions that are part of the priority education network are much less likely to attend museums (35% against 76%) or to be given books by their parents (44% against 67 %). However, they more often eat fast food (38% against 26%) or go to shopping centers (55% against 46%), which are less fulfilling activities. Budding botanists are less likely: only 13% of them say they go on nature walks, compared to 41% of others.

More worrisome according to the study, is that a significant proportion of these children (10-20%) are in a state of “major cultural deprivation”, saying that they “never go on holiday” (12%), have “never gone to a show, a museum or to the city centre” (10%, 9%, 8%), have “no access to books at home” (19%), and “never received a book as a gift” (20%). We know, according to Eric Charbonnier, education expert at the OECD, that children whose parents read them a book once a week perform better in French. These CM1-CM2 children therefore are less likely to be good in this area, even though they to to school. “Schools can not do everything to reduce inequalities’  in education, according to Nina Schmidt .

Download the study (in French)

Read more via Slate (in French)

Study shows how enrolment policies increase educational inequalities in Ireland

logo gqlzqyA recent study by the NUI Galway sheds new light on the situation of the so-called “New Irish” pupils and establishes a link between enrolment practices at Irish schools and the growing achievement gap between native and migrant students.

Aim of the study was to assess how factors such as neighbourhood, school and home environment affect educational outcomes of student from immigrant descent in secondary education. Furthermore, the study found that native students are twice as likely to sit higher level in maths and science. As access to Irish universities depends on a point system, which rewards higher levels in these subjects, migrant students will also be underrepresented in university education. In addition, the study highlights that current policies on school choice discriminate against migrant students since schools are allowed to give preferential treatment to candidates with family members who previously attended the school. The study remarks that there is a link between the growing achievement gap and those enrolment practices which further educational segregation.

Via The Galway Advertiser

Abstract of the article published in the journal Population, Space and Place

School concentration – Stakeholder meeting report

On Friday, 17th January 2014, the European Network against Racism (a new SIRIUS collaborative partner) hosted a SIRIUS stakeholder meeting on the issue of school concentration. Following on from the SIRIUS Thematic Workshop on “Segregation and Integration in Education” in The Hague in October 2013, this meeting with European stakeholders aimed to develop practical and policy recommendations for schools and governments.

argument mapFirstly, the findings of the Thematic Workshop in The Hague highlighted why the issue of segregation is important, what actors can do to limit the negative effects of segregation and how to convince politicians of the importance of this issue. (Presentation and Argument map). PISA study findings emphasised that the concentration of immigrants in disadvantaged schools is the main issue to be tackled, as disadvantaged schools are associated with poorer outcomes for students than disadvantaged parental background. (Presentation). Some examples of factors that hinder equity are:

  • Early tracking
  • Free school choice
  • School policies that retain underperforming students
  • Lack of well-trained, long-term staff across all schools
  • Lack of political will
  • Unclear legislation (reaffirming the right of every child to access education)
  • Unnecessary administrative requirements

This was followed by case-studies from Austria (Presentation) and Belgium.

IMG_2893The issue of equal access to schools was also highlighted during the meeting. Do minority/migrant background students, such as Roma, for example, have equal access to the same types of schools as others or are they unnecessarily concentrated in special needs schools? In fact, to what extent is having a disability, being foreign or of a particular gender treated in a transversal way so that the school environment is adapted to the needs of each child? And as regards undocumented children school concentration can be an issue, as certain schools have registration procedures that enable access regardless of residence status while others may create obstacles.

It is clear from these examples that a number of strategies in the governance of education and segregation can be adopted to decrease school concentration:

1)      Immediate or short-term interventions such as desegregation bussing, or implementing quotas for example. However these must be followed up with sustainable school policies that encourage classes to remain mixed, as otherwise systematic level policies will be undermined.

2)      Indirect medium and long term measures (esp. in mixed neighbourhoods) that offer increased resources and quality of targeted schools, thus making them more attractive to parents.

3)      Measures that increase the quality of segregated schools which are not likely to become mixed because the neighbourhoods are highly segregated, such as intensified quality development, support and teacher resources.

Read the whole summary of the meeting, including a list of recommendations and participants here.

Two Thematic Workshops preceded the fourth SIRIUS General Meeting

On 9th October 2013, two simultaneous Thematic Workshops took place in The Lobby of The Hague on segregation and on transitions. These events were chaired by Guido Walraven and Sabine Severiens respectively and around 40 education and migration professionals participated in them. These were the first two Thematic Workshops organised by the SIRIUS network and it was a great opportunity to share knowledge and experiences between policymakers, researchers and practitioners from all over Europe.

DSCN3694               DSCN3723               workshop transitions

These two events took place the day before the fourth SIRIUS General Meeting, and some partners of the network attended them. The next Thematic Workshop will take place in Vilnius between 21st and 23rd November 2013. The main topic will be the programmes of language support and the event will be organised by two SIRIUS partners, Public Policy and Management Institute and the Ministry of Education and Science of Lithuania.