In search of the mechanisms conducive to class differentials in educational choice: a mixed method research

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Abstract

This paper inquires into the mechanisms conducive to social class differentials in educational choice in Flanders (the Northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) using both quantitative data gathered from parents (N = 1339) and qualitative data gathered during two focus groups with pupils (N = 16). Unlike most of the previous studies, this study takes into consideration all three theoretical perspectives that have driven research on class differentials in educational choice so far, namely cultural reproduction theory, rational action theory and the notion of social capital. Logistic regression analysis shows that self-selection does also occur in Flanders and that the effect of parental SES cannot be explained by a specific measure of cultural capital centred on knowledge of the educational system, nor by measures of social capital. What emerges most clearly from this study is that pupils' perception of their choice process is powerfully framed by deep-rooted conceptions about the educational alternatives available to them. Furthermore, children's choices seem to be delimited by parents' opinions of which educational alternatives were acceptable, and which ones not. Our study calls for future research to take the wider context of decision-making processes more explicitly into account.

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