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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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Author: Aina Tarabini

The final chapter of the book provides a holistic account of the multiple ways social and educational inequalities traverse educational choices and transitions. By articulating the macro, meso and micro levels of analysis that inform the book, and by combining the empirical results of the previous chapters, this concluding chapter critically identifies and analyses five main mechanisms of inequality (structural, systemic, institutional, relational and subjective) that in a clearly interrelated manner mediate the framing, enactment and experiences of upper secondary educational choices and transitions. The identification of these mechanisms represents a significant contribution in the theorising of the relationships between educational transitions and social inequalities that it is suitable to be applied in multiple national and institutional contexts as well as in different transition points within the education system and beyond.

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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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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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Author: Aina Tarabini

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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The aim of this chapter is to identify the factors that affect transitions to upper secondary education among students with migrant backgrounds. Based on an adaptation of Bourdieu’s theoretical framework and a mixed methodology that combines students’ questionnaires and interviews in Barcelona, the chapter demonstrates the overwhelmingly disadvantaged conditions that migrant students deal with in their upper secondary educational transitions. Results suggest three main interrelated factors: a devaluation of family capital as a result of the migration process; a lack of legitimised linguistic capital that affects students’ grades in lower secondary education and teaching recommendations; and a misalignment between the standard timeframes of schooling and the timeframes of migrant trajectories, which reduces the chances that migrant students choose the academic track. The chapter demonstrates the usefulness of applying Bourdieu’s analytical tools to better understand the role of migration in the making of educational transitions.

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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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The objective of this chapter is to analyse the role of urban peripheries in shaping post-16 youth educational choices and transitions. By means of qualitative interviews with young people in their first year of upper secondary education in Barcelona (Spain), we explore the relationship between urban mobility and educational transitions and investigate the reasons for selecting a particular upper secondary school. The analysis demonstrates that living in an urban periphery conditions young people both in material terms -through the economic, social and cultural possibilities that it prevents- and in emotional and experiential terms -by creating a sense of self that is deeply rooted in the logics of the periphery. Overall, our chapter shows that urban peripheries are a core part of young people’s habitus that critically influence their educational choices and transitions by means of internalized feelings of (dis) entitlement, (lack of) belonging and (dis) possession.

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