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Parental responsibilisation and camouflaging class-based inequalities: an ethnography of a highly selective educational transition


Reh, Carlotta; Landolt, Sara (2024). Parental responsibilisation and camouflaging class-based inequalities: an ethnography of a highly selective educational transition. Educational Review:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

This paper contributes to the study of mechanisms of parental responsibilisation and involvement that solidify unequal educational opportunities and camouflage these, especially from pupils. Drawing on data from Zurich, the biggest city in Switzerland, the authors find that parental responsibilisation plays a crucial role in ensuring that class-based educational inequalities remain unrecognised by pupils at the selective educational transition from primary to secondary education after sixth grade. This article uses an ethnography with children and their families from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in Zurich to analyse the impact of parents’ and teachers’ practices on pupils’ understanding of educational and other inequalities. The children were preparing for the highly selective entrance exam in the hope of transitioning to the most prestigious secondary school track, the only one that grants unrestricted access to university. The paper argues that class-based inequalities are both intentionally and unintentionally camouflaged from pupils in two ways: first, through the normalisation of strong parental involvement in their children’s education, which is presented as the norm, and second, through parents’ and teachers’ practices of hiding the impact that parental involvement, which differs by social class, has on children’s chances at this transition. Language-based educational inequalities are negotiated in primary schools and families and recognised by pupils, but class-based educational inequalities remain largely unrecognised by pupils. This reinforces their belief in a meritocratic transition that offers almost equal chances for all.

Abstract

This paper contributes to the study of mechanisms of parental responsibilisation and involvement that solidify unequal educational opportunities and camouflage these, especially from pupils. Drawing on data from Zurich, the biggest city in Switzerland, the authors find that parental responsibilisation plays a crucial role in ensuring that class-based educational inequalities remain unrecognised by pupils at the selective educational transition from primary to secondary education after sixth grade. This article uses an ethnography with children and their families from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in Zurich to analyse the impact of parents’ and teachers’ practices on pupils’ understanding of educational and other inequalities. The children were preparing for the highly selective entrance exam in the hope of transitioning to the most prestigious secondary school track, the only one that grants unrestricted access to university. The paper argues that class-based inequalities are both intentionally and unintentionally camouflaged from pupils in two ways: first, through the normalisation of strong parental involvement in their children’s education, which is presented as the norm, and second, through parents’ and teachers’ practices of hiding the impact that parental involvement, which differs by social class, has on children’s chances at this transition. Language-based educational inequalities are negotiated in primary schools and families and recognised by pupils, but class-based educational inequalities remain largely unrecognised by pupils. This reinforces their belief in a meritocratic transition that offers almost equal chances for all.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Education
Language:English
Date:7 May 2024
Deposited On:28 May 2024 14:18
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:41
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0013-1911
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2024.2342729
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID192207
  • : Project TitleYoung peopleâ��s transition to Gymnasium and the role of private and public supplementary learning programs
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)