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The aim of this chapter is to explore how gender dispositions are mobilised in upper secondary educational transitions and specifically in the making of counter-hegemonic choices in Vocational Education and Training (VET). Based on interviews with girls and boys studying atypical gender VET modalities in Barcelona, the chapter demonstrates remarkable differences between boys and girls in their educational trajectories and in their motivations to choose a non-normative VET programme. While most of the boys were developing lads’ attitudes during their school trajectory, whilst laddettes attitudes were much rarer. Most of the boys explain their non-normative gender choices by alluding to instrumental factors while girls’ choices are mostly expressed in terms of ‘personality’. Furthermore, ‘choosing against gender’ is more traumatic for girls as they are more pressured than their male peers. Overall, the chapter contributes to understanding the relationship between gender, educational transitions and social inequalities.

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Educational transitions play a critical role in the (re)production of social inequalities. Transitions to upper secondary education are particularly significant as in most European countries this is when students are separated into different tracks – academic and vocational – and the first time they face a ‘real choice’ over their educational trajectory. Using a qualitative-driven approach that includes multiple research techniques (documentary analysis, questionnaires and interviews), the book offers a detailed account of upper secondary educational choices and transitions in two global European cities: Barcelona and Madrid. Contributors explore the political, institutional and subjective dimensions of these transitions and the multiple mechanisms of inequality that operate. The book examines the structure of the education system, the features of the academic-vocational divide and teachers’, policymakers’ and students’ practices and beliefs to provide a comprehensive understanding of the transition to upper secondary education. The book also shows how young people’s educational choices and opportunities are deeply mediated by the axes of social inequality (social class, gender and migration backgrounds) in multiple ways. Overall, the book provides a sound theoretical perspective and robust empirical evidence of how social inequalities are produced and extended by educational transitions to upper secondary level.

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This chapter analyses young people’s upper secondary education transitions as intrinsically related to their previous school trajectories and experiences in lower secondary education. Drawing on quantitative data of students from Barcelona in their first year of upper secondary education, the chapter demonstrates the central role that schools play in the construction of educational opportunities. It specifically shows how certain institutional devices (mostly repetition, suspension and ability grouping), and also the subjective experience of them, facilitate or inhibit different upper secondary educational trajectories for different youth profiles. One of the most important contributions of the chapter is the construction of a typology of school trajectories – the ‘good students’, the ‘hard workers’, the ‘troublemakers’ and the ‘misfits’ – that, through the mediation of structural variables and particularly social class, deeply conditions the choice of upper secondary tracks.

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Understanding Upper Secondary School Choices in Urban Contexts
Editor: Aina Tarabini

Transitions to upper secondary education are crucial to understanding social inequalities. In most European countries, it is at this moment when students are separated into different tracks and faced with a ‘real choice’ in relation to their educational trajectory.

Based on a qualitative driven approach with multiple research techniques, including documentary analysis, questionnaires and over 100 interviews with policy makers, teachers and young people in Barcelona and Madrid, this book offers a holistic account of upper secondary educational transitions in urban contexts. Contributors explore the political, institutional and subjective dimensions of these transitions and the multiple mechanisms of inequality that traverse them.

Providing vital insights for policy and practice that are internationally relevant, this book will guarantee greater equity and social justice for young people regarding their educational trajectories and opportunities.

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Educational transitions play a critical role in the (re)production of social inequalities. Transitions to upper secondary education are particularly significant as in most European countries this is when students are separated into different tracks – academic and vocational – and the first time they face a ‘real choice’ over their educational trajectory. Using a qualitative-driven approach that includes multiple research techniques (documentary analysis, questionnaires and interviews), the book offers a detailed account of upper secondary educational choices and transitions in two global European cities: Barcelona and Madrid. Contributors explore the political, institutional and subjective dimensions of these transitions and the multiple mechanisms of inequality that operate. The book examines the structure of the education system, the features of the academic-vocational divide and teachers’, policymakers’ and students’ practices and beliefs to provide a comprehensive understanding of the transition to upper secondary education. The book also shows how young people’s educational choices and opportunities are deeply mediated by the axes of social inequality (social class, gender and migration backgrounds) in multiple ways. Overall, the book provides a sound theoretical perspective and robust empirical evidence of how social inequalities are produced and extended by educational transitions to upper secondary level.

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Educational transitions play a critical role in the (re)production of social inequalities. Transitions to upper secondary education are particularly significant as in most European countries this is when students are separated into different tracks – academic and vocational – and the first time they face a ‘real choice’ over their educational trajectory. Using a qualitative-driven approach that includes multiple research techniques (documentary analysis, questionnaires and interviews), the book offers a detailed account of upper secondary educational choices and transitions in two global European cities: Barcelona and Madrid. Contributors explore the political, institutional and subjective dimensions of these transitions and the multiple mechanisms of inequality that operate. The book examines the structure of the education system, the features of the academic-vocational divide and teachers’, policymakers’ and students’ practices and beliefs to provide a comprehensive understanding of the transition to upper secondary education. The book also shows how young people’s educational choices and opportunities are deeply mediated by the axes of social inequality (social class, gender and migration backgrounds) in multiple ways. Overall, the book provides a sound theoretical perspective and robust empirical evidence of how social inequalities are produced and extended by educational transitions to upper secondary level.

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This chapter analyses the ways in which young people’s discourses about their upper secondary educational transitions are representative of the hermeneutical injustice, understood as young people’s misunderstanding of their own social experiences. Based on rich qualitative narratives of students in Madrid, the chapter identifies the weight they attribute to structural factors and to their own agency in explaining their upper secondary choices. Results of the analysis demonstrate that, overall, young people’s discourses reflect the denial of any habitus and the understanding of their own choices and transitions as the result of their will and/or individual capability. The chapter contributes to the understanding of educational transitions showing the lack of young people’s awareness of the structural and institutional factors that condition their choices and trajectories. That denial condemns them to a disadvantageous position owing to their inability to deal with constraints that they don’t even identify.

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The objective of this chapter is to provide a sociological understanding of vocation by exploring its association with the notion of choice. It explores how secondary school teachers understand the concept of vocation, and the factors they relate to the making of young people’s vocations and related educational transitions and choices. By a comparative analysis of teachers’ interviews in Barcelona and Madrid, the chapter shows that the notion of vocation is not equally mobilised by teachers in different upper secondary education tracks, and not all the choices are seen as equally ‘vocational’. ‘In the name of vocations’ teachers hierarchise and legitimise profoundly different students’ capacities, identities and choices. Overall, the chapter contributes to understanding the institutional making of educational transitions and to opening the black box of vocation as a critical mechanism for the (re)reproduction of social inequalities through the making of educational choices.

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Educational transitions play a critical role in the (re)production of social inequalities. Transitions to upper secondary education are particularly significant as in most European countries this is when students are separated into different tracks – academic and vocational – and the first time they face a ‘real choice’ over their educational trajectory. Using a qualitative-driven approach that includes multiple research techniques (documentary analysis, questionnaires and interviews), the book offers a detailed account of upper secondary educational choices and transitions in two global European cities: Barcelona and Madrid. Contributors explore the political, institutional and subjective dimensions of these transitions and the multiple mechanisms of inequality that operate. The book examines the structure of the education system, the features of the academic-vocational divide and teachers’, policymakers’ and students’ practices and beliefs to provide a comprehensive understanding of the transition to upper secondary education. The book also shows how young people’s educational choices and opportunities are deeply mediated by the axes of social inequality (social class, gender and migration backgrounds) in multiple ways. Overall, the book provides a sound theoretical perspective and robust empirical evidence of how social inequalities are produced and extended by educational transitions to upper secondary level.

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This chapter focuses on the political construction of upper secondary educational transitions by comparing the problematisation of and the solutions proposed by policymakers and educational stakeholders in Barcelona and Madrid. By means of critical policy analysis and sociology of education policy, this chapter highlights the dynamic and conflicting nature of the upper secondary field and the frictions related to its functions, institutional organisation and different forms of provision. Results demonstrate the subordination of the vocational track to the academic one both in discursive and institutional terms. It also proves a strong problematisation of VET in terms of a naturalised conception of the labour market and the skills demand. Overall, the chapter demonstrates the political nature of educational transitions by highlighting the multiple inequalities that traverse the conception, organisation and provision of the upper secondary educational tracks and also the political and institutional mechanisms that legitimise them.

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