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The merry-go-round of disadvantage: educational policy and integration in segregated schools

By D. de Ruiter


Segregated schools are associated with problems. Educational disadvantage among pupils at these schools persists and these kinds of schools, more than other kinds of schools, are confronted the most with societal problems. Yet little is known about what actually happens at these schools. This dissertation studies how segregated schools deal with educational disadvantage among their pupils. The central argument is that the educational disadvantage of immigrant children is not - as is generally assumed - simply the product of deficit characteristics of pupils and parents from lower socio-economic and ethnic minority backgrounds. Neither does the explanation that the educational system offers these children fewer opportunities really account for their disadvantaged educational positions. These perspectives seem to fall short of explaining the interrelatedness of child-raising styles and educational practices, and tend to overlook the norms for evaluating child-raising styles. An alternative view on educational disadvantage among immigrant pupils is developed by interrelating theories on the interaction between individuals in schools, with theories on policy translation processes and theories on school organisations. Educational disadvantage seems to be the result of more complex interaction processes between teachers, immigrant pupils and their parents, who engage, through the daily curriculum, in negotiations over the ascription and positioning of parents’ and pupils’ identities. This has implications for the extent to which parents’ and pupils’ competencies are used and for their access to education. This negotiation process and outcomes appear to be interrelated with dynamics and developments at the level of the school organisations and with policy. This dissertation discusses the practices in two segregated, primary schools in the context of current integration and educational policies. Examination of these policies shows that, influenced by a growing emphasis on the necessity of assimilation, a good relationship between segregated schools and immigrant parents is an important condition for schools to succeed in combating educational disadvantage. However, the present study shows that, despite teachers’ and parents’ efforts and despite some improvements, the interactions between teachers and parents do not solve problems. Instead, the reproduction of educational disadvantage tends to be a significant outcome. Strikingly similar patterns were observed in the interactions between teachers and parents, and in the way in which interaction, micro-politics in the school organisation and policy interrelated. The deficit perspective on immigrant pupils and parents did not explain the patterns observed, but instead formed a decisive element. The ascription of deficits to immigrant pupils and parents goes a long way towards explaining the fact that reproduction of educational disadvantage tends to be a significant outcome of teachers’ and parents’ efforts to improve the educational opportunities of immigrant pupils. I argue that combating educational disadvantage requires reconciliation between the educational aims of social justice and economic competency. But to achieve this aim I see the principle of meritocracy as a problem, because the assumption that the influence of collective backgrounds can be reversed ultimately holds pupils responsible for their educational success or failure. The phenomenon of “deficit pupils” is the result. The ultimate aim should instead be to adapt educational norms to the existence of different groups and their specific needs and competencies. However, adapting educational norms to different needs does not mean abandoning educational teaching standards. On the contrary, an effort should be made to achieve these standards for different groups by dealing with diversity in the educational system. The challenge is to stimulate and encourage a more comprehensive and adaptive approach to educational disadvantage among immigrant pupils in segregated schools, while bearing in mind the tensions inherent to the educational system, and in particular to those tensions resulting from restrictions on dealing with diversity

Topics: Sociaal-culturele Wetenschappen (SOWE)
Publisher: Rozenberg Publishers
Year: 2008
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