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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Admission Impossible? School Choice in European Cities

Alternative title: Ingen adgang? Fritt skolevalg i europeiske byer

Awarded: NOK 12.4 mill.

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Project Period:

2021 - 2025


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School choice is a fundamental right for parents to have access to schools that best suit their children’s educational and social needs. But vast inequalities exist in the extent to which parents can choose and enhance their children’s educational opportunities. Parents with greater economic means already have choice as they can afford to move to an area with high-quality public schools or enrol their children in private schools. Parents without such means generally do not have same access to choices and must send their children to schools assigned to them by municipalities regardless of the school’s quality or appropriateness. Governments seek to devise policies which will meet parental demands for school choice without increasing segregation and inequality. However, there is little consensus among policy makers or researchers as to what policies might achieve both objectives. Research has thus far failed to take account of how national choice policies are implemented at the local level and how variations in this may affect outcomes both locally and nationally. Our research will address this problem through comparative analysis of the policy process and the outcomes of school choice implementation in fourteen cities in Western Europe.

The research study investigates how and why school choice programmes are designed differently across European cities and what consequences this has for parental freedom to choose and educational equality. This will be investigated in three, inter-connected projects. The first project is a qualitative inter- and intra-national study of the local politics and policy of school choice design in fourteen cities (Bergen, Oslo, Stavanger, Trondheim, Malmö, Gothenburg, Odense, Aarhus, Cologne, Munich, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Brighton, Manchester) in six Western European countries. The second project uses a mixed-method approach to examine Norwegian parent's preferences for school choice, and perceptions of how effective their local/regional governments are in providing them with appropriate choice, through a survey, in-depth interviews, and focus groups with parents from different socio-economic backgrounds. The third project is a quantitative study, which aims to examine the causal effects of school choice in Norway at the upper-secondary school level on: 1) academic achievements, 2) ethnic segregation, and 3) segregation based on socioeconomic background in Norway. The special feature of the project is that we combine a qualitative comparative city governance approach to school choice with an investigation on policy effects and econometric methodology of policy evaluation. This will provide us an original way of assessing how various school choice designs promote diversity and equity at the local level and inform decision making in cities, which are introducing or reforming choice designs and showcase innovative practices that can support them.

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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren