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17 December 2015
Doctoral thesis (Dissertations and theses)
Backes, Susanne


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Keywords :
Educational Inequalities; Educational pathways; Luxembourg; Secondary Schools; Permeability
Abstract :
[en] This dissertation provides a detailed discussion of educational pathways through Luxembourg’s stratified school system, addressing educational inequalities in a longitudinal perspective. The link between stratification and educational inequality is well documented (Van de Werfhorst & Mijs, 2010; Pfeffer 2008). However, stratified systems themselves differ in permeability and in the given opportunity structure for intragenerational social mobility through changes of school track. This dissertation focuses on the occurrence of permeability in the stratified educational system of Luxembourg by analysing secondary school students’ pathways. The study attempts to answer the following main research questions: How can the students’ pathways through Luxembourg’s educational system be characterised and systemised? Does the use of track changes rather increase or decrease educational inequalities? The author deals with these questions by carrying out a triangulated design combining secondary data analysis (administrative panel dataset of all 5,301 students born in 1990 and PISA data) and narrative interviews with (former) school students. The conceptual framework is based on Boudon’s structural-individualistic approach (1974), Bourdieu’s capital theory (1983) and concepts of the sociology of youth (e.g. Zinnecker 2003). The cluster analysis reveals different types of complete pathways of secondary school students in Luxembourg. The largest group (37%) of the students follows an immobile academic pathway, and some students in the academic track leave this track early (7%). Within the technical track, which is further subdivided, more students follow a downwardly mobile pathway (21%) than an immobile pathway (17%). A small part of students within the technical track (12%) belongs to upwardly mobile types (only 2% of all the students make the transition from the technical to the academic track). The remaining 6% of the students follow careers that were interrupted at least once. Thus, 46% of all the students experience (multiple) broken secondary school pathways. The 15 qualitative interviews illustrate that the types of educational pathways are not directly linked to particular kinds of biographies in adolescent lives: Both, moratorium-oriented and transition-oriented students can be found in different pathway types. However, different trajectories afford different degrees of agency with respect to shaping the teenage years and creating professional identities. With regard to educational inequalities, results of logistic regression analyses reveal that socioeconomic and gender-specific placement gaps tend to increase during secondary schooling. On the other hand, migrant-specific disparities decrease through upwardly mobile pathways and higher continuity rates of students with migration backgrounds, whereby in case of vulnerable migrant groups this decreasing effect does not concern the transition to the highest tracks that are required for direct university entry. Further analyses show that the mechanisms behind different transition patterns vary between branching points and student groups in terms of achievement-related and decision-related effects. Thus, this study attempts to add to the body of knowledge of the permeability of educational systems and provides useful information to support the work of policy makers and consultants in the field of education.
Disciplines :
Sociology & social sciences
Author, co-author :
Backes, Susanne ;  University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Education, Culture, Cognition and Society (ECCS)
Language :
Title :
Alternative titles :
[en] Heterogeneity in the Luxembourgish educational system. A comparative analysis of secondary school students’ educational pathways
Defense date :
23 September 2015
Number of pages :
Institution :
Unilu - University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Degree :
Docteur en Sociologie
President :
Jury member :
Willems, Helmut 
Jacob, Marita
Bühler-Niederberger, Doris


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