This project is located at the intersection of two fields of inquiry: the sociology of schools (in particular, the organizational environment at school) and the sociology of migration and integration. School is an important institution of children’s socialization, and its social organization (academic culture, leadership etc.) can be an important determinant in students’ further educational choices and trajectories. Therefore, it has a special importance for integration and the assimilation of migrants.
The object of the study is the school system in large metropolitan areas (Greater St.Petersburg and Greater Moscow), including teachers, students and parents interacting with the school. Empirically research is based on data gathered in 2008-2010 (data collection funded by the Basic Research Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics) with nearly 10,000 student questionnaires and 740 teacher questionnaires in St.Petersburg, 3,000 student questionnaires in the Greater Moscow area, 340 interviews with parents, experts, students, school employees, etc.
The project aims at developing original methods and gathering data on the interaction of individual attitudes, trajectories and the characteristics of the school social environment, in particular regarding the integration of minority children.
The objectives of the 2011 project:
- to develop and test survey instruments for researching schools’ organizational environment;
- to develop methods for studying the system of tracking and selection in/between schools, and to analyze the patterns of tracking and sorting in urban and rural schools;
- to analyze migrant children’s integration by comparing attitudes, values, educational choices, aspirations and trajectories of migrant and local children;
- to analyze the effects of individual background, school and class effects on attitudes, educational aspirations and trajectories of students using multi-level modeling.
The researchers on the project developed and validated scales for measuring socio-psychological characteristics of teaching staff (sense of belonging, collective efficacy, work satisfaction, satisfaction with leadership) and a student body (motivation, satisfaction with school, sense of belonging, involvement in learning/academic culture). In order to test the validity of scales and the relation of measured variables and other school characteristics (educational performance and socio-economic composition) researchers compared high- and low-achieving schools, selected by experts in local educational offices. Satisfaction with leaders, teachers’ job satisfaction, collective efficacy and students’ engagement differed in these schools, while sense of belonging (for both teachers and students), students’ school satisfaction, and students anti-school culture were not dependent on the school's ‘quality’ as identified by experts. In fact, students’ sense of belonging and satisfaction were higher in small poor rural schools.
On the basis of both qualitative and quantitative data the researchers described in detail and analyzed the mechanisms of social selection, sorting and tracking in schools. It is evident that in urban spaces with the opportunities for school selection there is strong socio-economic and ethnic differentiation of schools with no evident tracking in schools. In rural areas, to the contrary, where the options of choosing between schools are very limited the main mechanism of selection is within-school tracking, when classes in one grade strikingly differ in social composition.
The project report presents the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the migrant students and their families within the specific context of two regions which are the key magnets for migrants: St. Petersburg and the Greater Moscow area. It was demonstrated that the distribution of children by school depends more on social class than on ethnic background, and the concentration of migrant minorities in particular schools are due both to their family SES and the network effects of school selection by parents. There were important differences between St. Petersburg and the Greater Moscow area. In St. Petersburg migrants, who lack material resources, local social capital and time, opt for small schools attended by children from local families with a low socio-economic status. In the Moscow suburbs the data shows the importance of local sorting systems: in some districts the pattern was the same, while in other districts there was no correlation between school size and ethnic composition. In both areas the multi-level modeling (dependence of GPA and various attitudinal variables on individual and school characteristics) demonstrates very little variation between schools (5% of variance on school level). The project report also includes a detailed description and statistical analysis of the factors affecting the students’ educational and occupational choices, as well as a brief discussion of interethnic relations, religiosity and the values of ethnic majority and ethnic minority students with different migration histories.
The project’s results were disseminated and applied in cooperation with UNICEF and The Red Cross, St. Petersburg in a series of working meetings with representatives of the city government and social workers in St. Petersburg. The researchers conducted additional surveys at the request of UNICEF and the Red Cross, St. Petersburg and developed specific recommendations on improving the migrant children’s situation. The resulting analysis and polcity recommendations were published in a brochure released in cooperation with UNICEF. This brochure will be useful for education officials, social workers, officers of immigration services, municipal officers and researchers in the field of education and migration.This research was carried out in consultation with our international colleagues: Mieke Van Houtte (Ghent University), Marijtje van Duijn and Christian Steglich (University of Groningen), Frank van Tubergen (Utrecht University), Mark Tranmer (Manchester University).