Educational inequalities in Canton Ticino: results of a longitudinal study.

Zanolla, Giovanna (2021) Educational inequalities in Canton Ticino: results of a longitudinal study. In: Giornate svizzere della statistica UNSPECIFIED, 6 - 8 settembre 2021, Lugano.

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Ticino’s Department of Education, Culture and Sport has developed an application that makes available - in the form of database - student-specific information, including some social and biographical details, data on the student’s past and current training, subjects studied, marks, days of absence from school and end of the year results. The database (called 'GAGI' - literally meaning: Management of Students and Institutes) allowed to carry out a longitudinal study that has involved over 3,000 students in Canton Ticino (Zanolla, 2017). This study focuses on the transition from compulsory to the post-compulsory school or vocational tracks and on the completion of the postcompulsory education and the pathways of different social groups are compared. Ticino constitutes an interesting case because it is a region characterized by a relatively comprehensive school system where tracking is postponed to the 8th grade and limited to two subjects in a country where most of the cantons adopt a selective school system. The strong work-based vocational training system is however similar to the rest of the country. The analysis shows that immediately after compulsory education, 36% of youngsters of the cohort have commenced a high school and 44% a VET. These percentages vary according to social origin: students from socially underprivileged families have a lower propensity of continuing with a general education and a higher probability of attending a VET. These data reflect both the worse performance at the lower secondary school of students from lower social classes, and the fact that when having the opportunity to choose pupils from disadvantaged groups tend to prefer the less demanding educational tracks that nevertheless give them access to qualified occupational positions and protect them against unemployment (Breen et al,. 2014). By contrast, students from upper class are more inclined to continue with general education. At the age of almost 21, 57% of students belonging to the socially most deprived group in the cohort have completed the VET and have obtained a federal certificate of ability while 18.5% are in possession of a high school diploma. These percentages equal 39% and 43% respectively among the upper class students. Both in the lowest and in the highest social group 12% are NEETs or people who are untraceable.

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