New publications
Published: 28. 6. 2007

New Publication - Sociological Studies

Educational Aspirations in a Comparative Perspective. The role of individual, contextual and structural factors in the formation of educational aspirations in OECD countries - Petr Matějů, Petr Soukup, Josef Basl

Abstract

 

Research on social stratification has brought overwhelming evidence that the educational aspirations of adolescents are one of the strongest predictors of educational and occupational careers. The most recent comparative analyses have revealed that educational aspirations are shaped not only by parental socio-economic status, measured ability and values shared by a family (individual level), and the quality and type of attended schools (contextual level), but also by the structure of the whole education system, the degree of its stratification, its orientation to vocational training, its permeability, and its links to the labour market (structural level). This is why research on the interplay between individual, contextual and structural levels in the formation of educational aspirations has become such a promising stream of current stratification research.

 

The aim of the paper is to assess the effect of education system stratification, its vocational specificity and permeability on the formation of educational aspirations in OECD countries participating in PISA 2003. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of ability, gender, and socioeconomic background.

 

The results confirm previous analyses showing that the more stratified the system of secondary education, the stronger the effect of socio-economic background on educational aspirations, even after controlling for students’ ability. This finding holds both at the individual and the school level. However, the results of our analysis do not support the hypothesis that more stratified systems enhance the realism of pupils towards their educational aspirations. At the individual level the net effect of ability turned out to be uniform across the types of countries defined by different levels of education system stratification, whereas the net effect of social background on aspirations turned out to be significantly stronger in more stratified education systems.

Keywords

 

Education, educational aspirations, inequality, social stratification, socio-economic status, educational ability, education system stratification, PISA

Summary

 

Present research on social stratification has brought overwhelming evidence that the educational aspirations of adolescents are one of the strongest predictors of educational and occupational careers. The most recent comparative analyses have revealed that educational aspirations are shaped not only by parental socioeconomic status, measured ability and values shared by a family

(individual level), and the quality and type of attended schools (contextual level), but also by the structure of the whole educational system, the degree of its stratification, its orientation to vocational training, its permeability, and its links to the labor market (structural level). This is why research on the interplay between individual, contextual and structural levels in the formation of educational aspirations has become such a promising stream of current stratification research.

 

Therefore, the aim of this paper is to assess the effect of educational system stratification, its vocational specificity and permeability on the formation of educational aspirations in OECD countries participating in PISA 2003. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of ability, gender, and socioeconomic background.

 

Drawing on previous comparative research on the institutional embeddedness of educational aspirations, five main hypotheses were used for our analysis. Two of them focus both on the degree of educational system stratification and vocational specificity (as two related characteristics of secondary educational systems that form one dimension indicating the ‘openness and permeability’ of such systems) and on the degree of openness between secondary and tertiary education. Other hypotheses deal with the issue of the ‘realism’ of educational aspirations and with aspects related to the determination of educational aspirations by social origin, ability, gender and attended school.

 

The first step of the analysis consists in the creation of composite variables representing the degree of stratification, vocational specificity, permeability, and openness of secondary and tertiary education. The composite variables are then used to identify distinct types of countries according to the degree of educational system stratification, openness and permeability. We conduct logistic regression of educational aspirations on parental socioeconomic status, child’s measured ability, and gender to assess the degree to which they determine educational aspirations at the country level for each OECD country in the PISA 2003 data set (30 countries out of 41 that participated in PISA 2003).

 

The results of the logistic regression are then entered into the analysis of the relationships between the degree of educational system stratification, openness and selectivity on the one hand, and the degree of determination of educational aspirations on the other. Finally, we conduct a multilevel analysis of factors determining educational aspirations at the individual level (ability, parental SES, gender), contextual level (effect of between schools variation, average SES and ability in school) and the system level (type of educational system). The results confirm previous analyses showing that the more stratified the system of secondary education, the stronger the effect of socioeconomic background on educational aspirations, even after controlling for students’ ability. This finding holds both at the individual and the school level. However, the results of our analysis do not support the hypothesis that more stratified systems enhance the realism of pupils towards their educational aspirations. At the individual level the net effect of ability turned out to be uniform across the types of countries defined by different levels of educational system stratification, whereas the net effect of social background on aspirations turned out to be significantly stronger in more stratified educational systems.

 

Distribution:

prodej@soc.cas.cz

 

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