EduLIFE > Secondary school

Secondary Education

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Blossfeld, H.-P., Buchholz, S., Skopek, J., and Triventi, M. (Eds.) (forthcoming). Models of Secondary Education and Social Inequality - An International Comparison. eduLIFE Lifelong Learning Series. Vol. 3. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing


In focus:

Educational differentiation in secondary education and short- and longer-term consequences on social inequality in educational opportunities, achievement and final educational attainment


Core findings in a nutshell

  • The allocation to different types of secondary education represents an important milestone for the reproduction of social inequalities in education

  • In contrast to previous literature, which distinguished secondary educational systems mainly in terms of formal external tracking, we found less visible forms of informal differentiation to be crucial in the reproduction of educational inequalities

  • In all countries under study, social background is associated positively with enrolment in more prestigious types of secondary education that provide better scholastic preparation for students

  • Irrespective of the kind of educational  differentiation in secondary school, the type of secondary education has lasting effects on children’s subsequent educational careers (educational  aspirations, access to university, type of higher education attended)

Selected country-specific highlights

  • In Germany, formal external tracking takes place very early, and social inequalities are pronounced with regard to this first allocation of students into tracks; however, this first allocation is not ultimately deterministic as upgrading after grade 9 occurs frequently
  • In contrast, in systems with low formal external tracking, informal student sorting methods work for the maintenance of educational inequalities

  • In the ‘inclusive’ school systems of Nordic countries, grouping of students exists in form of e.g. more hidden subject-specific ability grouping (Sweden) or school choices based on published lists about the quality of schools (Finland)

  • Contrary to conventional wisdom, inequalities by social background in these countries are comparable in size to those found in countries with early external tracking

  • In England, students are free to choose from a wide range of (elective) subjects for their GCSE examinations (age 16), while there are no formal constraints on choice for higher examinations in Scotland (age 18). Subject choice was found to be a strong mediator of class of origin differences in both countries, in contrast to Ireland - a similarly structured country with less scope for choice - where social inequalities in upper secondary are more strongly associated with academic performance

External collaborators

External collaborators for secondary education phase (in alphabetical order, by country study):

Australia: Jenny Chesters, Michele Haynes

Denmark: Stine Møllegaard Pedersen

Estonia: Margarita Kazjulja, Ellu Saar, Kadri Taht

Finland: Elina Kilpi-Jakonen, Jani Erola, Aleksi Karula

France: Yaël Brinbaum, Géraldine Farges, Christine Guégnard, Jake Murdoch, Elise Tenret

Germany: Hartmut Ditton, Helmut Fend, Wolfgang Lauterbach, Antonia Schier, Florian Wohlkinger, Markus Zieloka  

Hungary: Daniel Horn, Tamas Keller, Peter Róbert

Israel: Carmel Blank, Yossi Shavit, Meir Yaish

Italy: Dalit Contini

Netherlands: Jaap Dronkers, Roxanne Korthals

Russia: Dmitry Kurakin, Diana Yanabarisova, Gordey Yastrebov

Spain: Pau Miret Gamundi, Daniela Vono de Vilhena

Sweden: Frida Rudolphi, Robert Erikson

Switzerland: Ariane Basler, Marlis Buchmann, Christian Imdorf, Irene Kriesi, Maarten Koomen

USA: William Carbonaro, Eric Grodsky

comparative study Scotland and Ireland: Markus Klein, Cristina Iannelli, Emer Smyth

International comparative study: Anne Christine Holtmann

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Outcomes of the final conference of the eduLIFE project

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short report on the eduLIFE final conference
Final Conference of the eduLIFE project

Final Conference of the eduLIFE project

At the final conference, the eduLIFE research team will present and discuss the key results of the project with outstanding experts in the field. 23-24 May 2016, Badia Fiesolana

Page last updated on 17 August 2017