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School Organization and Student Integration: Problems of Social Differentiation and Ethnical Segregation in Schools

Department: Research Laboratory of Sociology in Education and Science

The project consisted of three interrelated parts.

1. Studying adaptation ways of children from families of migrants of different ethnicity .

The topic of this research is the intersection of several important problems: migration sociology, education sociology and social stratification. Currently, in Russia there are not even basic statistical data on the number of children from migrant families attending Russian schools. Even where such data exist, they are not necessarily reliable, mostly because there is no clarity about who is considered to be a migrant, and what statistics need to be collated.

In the course of the project, we carried out surveys of high-school students in St. Petersburg and Moscow region. These localities were chosen because Moscow and St. Petersburg are the most attractive cities for cross-border migrants. According to the Federal Statistics Committee, of all the cross-border migrants who enter Russia, 26% come to Moscow Region and 12% to St. Petersburg. Thus, it is in these cities that we can expect to find schools with large numbers of children from migrant families.

In St. Petersburg, we surveyed 104 schools based on a stratified sample with further specification of small schools, because based on our preliminary data these schools are preferred by children from migrant families. In St. Petersburg, we collected a total of 7,300 questionnaire responses.

In Moscow Region, we carried out our survey in six municipalities adjacent to the Moscow Ring Road (MKAD) which, according to the Education Ministry of Moscow Region, have the highest share of school students from migrant families. Through a random sample, we selected 50 schools and collected 3,900 questionnaire responses.

A distinctive characteristic of the methodology of this research is the application of the most advanced methods of Social Network Analysis. At the data collection stage, we included into the questionnaire questions on network relations within the class.

Friendship networks are one of the major factors in the relationships between students and can significantly affect their academic performance, motivation for learning and choice of further education. In addition, unlike traditional sociological “opinion polls”, a study of intraschool social networks measures not attitudes and opinions, but rather actual interaction in the classroom / school. Thus, the use of a network-based approach provides a new perspective for the study of inter-ethnic relations, and quantifies the relationship between involvement in social networks and integration.

Due to their specific characteristics, network data can’t be processed by standard statistical means, and for these purposes special methods and programs were developed. The most prominent of these are Ucinet, Pajek, StockNet, Siena, PNet.

In the course of the project, we obtained new data on the social and ethnic composition of school students in St. Petersburg and Moscow region on their social horizons, academic performance, the educational and professional ambitions of children from different ethnic groups of migrants and the ethnic and social intraschool segregation / integration in schools with different characteristics.

We identified the differences between schools of different status in terms of educational achievements and educational ambitions, primarily due to the varied socio-economic composition of the student body. It showed that ethnic minority status has no effect on academic performance, while the age when they emmigrated does have an impact.

2. Study of social organization and school efficiency.

During the project, we developed an original tool for assessing the social organization and effectiveness of schools based on adapting foreign techniques for the analysis of the school climate and school culture. When working with the questionnaires, we collected and analyzed existing English-language tools and research articles on school climate assessment. The Russian-language questionnaire was designed with two versions: for teachers and students. The questionnaire included units to assess the sense of belonging, personal and collective efficacy, school satisfaction and academic culture. Each unit consisted of 5-10 questions that were evaluated through a Likert scale from 1 to 6.

We designed the first version of the questionnaire and carried out a pilot survey, which resulted in adjusting the questionnaire afterwards. The revised questionnaire was used to survey 48 schools in the St. Petersburg and Leningrad regions. In each of the schools, the survey of students and teachers was carried out simultaneously, which facilitated the study of the relationship between individual characteristics of school climate and the teachers' team on students’ achievements. We surveyed a total of 740 teachers and 2,000 students. The sample of schools was carried out at random among schools in four districts of the St. Petersburg and Leningrad region. A small but quite diverse database allows us to prepare tools for the assessment of any school.

3. Studying educational choice of school students

In 2010, we continued our research on educational trajectories, initiated in recent projects of Sociology of Education and Science Laboratory. The 80 interviews with 9th-graders, carried out in 2009 were encoded in QSR NVivo and analyzed from the perspective of a new research focus. Interviews were analyzed in terms of the grounded theory. As a theoretical framework for the analysis, we selected the rational choice theory and frame selection model.

We determined the frames that form educational choice. The key categories obtained from the rational choice theory and models of frame selection (benefit, alternative, risks, resources, frames) were filled with content obtained from interview analysis.

Analysis of the narratives demonstrated that even though in many cases the theory of risk mitigation can be applied, it is not sufficient for deep, detailed explanations and descriptions of the educational decision-making process. The inclusion into the explanatory model of two categories - the frames and scenarios - also takes into account the normative and value component of the choice. The aggregate model of frame selection looks the most appropriate for a meaningful description of the decision-making process of educational choice in the late ninth grade.

Thus, working with theories of rational choice and the choice of frame that were originally designed to handle large arrays of data is productive for the qualitative analysis of the 80 interviews. Filling the theoretical categories with the concepts of these informants provides an insight on their vision of the social world, perceived opportunities and respective risks. As a result, we can develop sociological models of educational choice based on empirical data that substantively characterize the stages of making a decision about further education.

Quantitative analysis of the educational choice based on data from 470 ninth-graders was carried out with the help of structural equation modeling (SEM). This statistical method determines the nature of the cause and effect relation in a total of several dependent and independent factors.

It turned out that such socio-psychological factors as educational ambitions and other meaningful factors significantly increase the explanatory power of the model. These factors mediate the impact of socio-economic indicators. The main determinant of educational choice is the ambitions of students and their parents. Meanwhile students’ ambitions depend on academic performance and from their environment, and parents’ ambitions – on their socio-professional status, social and cultural capital.