• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

School differentiation and students’ social environment

Priority areas of development: sociology
Department: Research Laboratory of Sociology in Education and Science
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Object of Research: School differentiation on different social levels: local educational systems in city/district, schools, classes and peers in class. 

Goal of Research:

  • to analyse and compare local educational systems in various social contexts on different levels;
  • to describe causes and consequences of school differentiation.

Empirical Base of Research:

Quantitative and qualitative data collected by the Laboratory previously (in 2009 - 2013) in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Leningrad region, as well as new data collected in 2014 in St. Petersburg:

  • Survey of students in advanced schools, i.e. gymnasiums, lyceums, schools with enhanced curriculum (55 schools, 2375 students)
  • Survey of parents in schools in one city district (21 schools, 622 parents)
  • Survey of students in vocational colleges (4th wave of the longitudinal survey, 4 vocational colleges, 547 students)

We also used PIRLS data for analysis of social differentiation in comparative international perspective.

Results of Research:

Educational aspirations and academic achievement disparity between different localities with various social context is observed. Important factors of this differentiation are local characteristics of socio-professional structure and labour market. Coupled with local rules of school differentiation they form local systems of social reproduction in education.

Socioeconomic differentiation between standard and advanced schools was found in St. Petersburg. Advanced schools are characterized by higher level of education and socio-professional positions of parents than standard schools. There is no any difference on socioeconomic status between different types of advanced schools (lyceumgymnasium, school with advanced curriculum).

Standard schools have, on average, 9% ethnic minority students; advanced schools - 6%. In advanced schools socio-professional status of parents of ethnic minority students is the same as average socio-professional status of non-minority students in the school; in standard schools ethnic minority families have lower socio-professional status that non-minority families. Socioeconomic factor of school differentiation is much stronger than ethnic one.

Socioeconomic differentiation leads to differentiation in academic achievement and educational aspirations of students.

The basis for school differentiation is parental choice of school. Parents whose children attend  advanced schools make their choice of school depending on its educational results and school status. Other parents take into account such characteristics as level of security and school ethnic composition.

Influence of different social levels (school, class and nominated friends) on self-concept in Math was analyzed. Effects of class academic level and friends' academic achievement on self-concept are much stronger than effect of school academic level. The higher is average Math grade in class, the higher is student self-concept. Average friends' grades have little effect on student self-concept, but the difference between own and her/his friends grades has additional strong influence on the student self-concept in Math.

Differentiation of academic achievement was analyzed on international level. In countries with higher level of social inequality the impact of peers at school on student academic achievement is stronger. School characteristics mediate the relation between family characteristics and reading achievement, but there is no school segregation effect. Several elements of school context raise students’ achievement independently of family characteristics: mean test score on reading and mean SES at school.

Level of implementation,  recommendations  on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of Results:

Local authorities receive reports with analysis of their local educational system and characteristics of schools. Upon completion the survey schools and vocational colleges from our sample receive reports describing average school characteristics as well as their  positions in the ranking of educational institutions on the local level.

Project results were presented on a number of international conferences and seminars in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Europe and USA (Florida – INSNA; Helsinki – VTT; Barcelona – EUSN, SocInfo; Porto – EERA etc.).

Field of application:

Project results can be applied in social and educational policy on several levels. For the country level policy this research demonstrates how country-wide reforms and innovations transform in different local social contexts. Local authorities and school head masters are interested in results of analysis of their schools in comparison with other schools in the locality. With the help of our research results they can evaluate not only students’ academic achievement but wider school context. 


Baranova V. V. The Linguistic Socialisation of Migrant Children in Russia / Пер. с рус. // Forum for Anthropology and Culture. 2014. No. 10. P. 206-221.
Alexandrov D. A., Tenisheva K., Savelyeva S. Safe Mobility: University after Technical College Pathway / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series EDU "Education". 2015. No. WP BRP 27/EDU/2015 .
Савельева С. С., Александров Д. А. Школьная дифференциация в условиях разных социальных контекстов // В кн.: Образование и социальная дифференциация: коллективная монография / Отв. ред.: М. Карной, И. Д. Фрумин, Н. Н. Кармаева. М. : Издательский дом НИУ ВШЭ, 2017. Гл. 2.3. С. 105-131.
Александров Д. А., Воскресенский В. М. Роль внеклассной активности в формировании социального неравенства: случай малого города // В кн.: Образование и социальная дифференциация: коллективная монография / Отв. ред.: М. Карной, И. Д. Фрумин, Н. Н. Кармаева. М. : Издательский дом НИУ ВШЭ, 2017. Гл. 4.2. С. 388-416.