The educational centers for minors in the Swiss canton of Ticino: education and inclusion opportunities.

Zanolla, Giovanna and Calvo, Spartaco (2018) The educational centers for minors in the Swiss canton of Ticino: education and inclusion opportunities. UNSPECIFIED. In: Book of abstracts Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research?, 03.09.2018 - 07.09.2018, Free University of Bolzano. (Submitted)

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Proposal Information In recent years, internationally characterized by a serious concern for an increasingly unequal society, "opportunity is shaped, more than anything else, by access to education" (Stiglitz, 2012, p. 275). One of the main factors in reducing inequalities is the dissemination of knowledge that depends largely on educational policies, access to training and to the acquisition of adequate skills (Piketty, 2014) and in order to achieve a greater social equity, it is necessary to invest in education, improve its quality, promote and re-evaluate vocational training and also focus on extracurricular activities, which enable the acquisition of transversal skills and social cohesion (Atkinson, 2015; Putnam, 2016). It is important to stress that, in addition to equal opportunities for access to education, quality education must be guaranteed: as one of the objectives of the UN Agenda 2030 states, all children, youth and adults, especially those belonging to the most vulnerable and marginalized groups, must have opportunities for education and training appropriate to their needs and the context in which they live. An inclusive school is therefore concerned about achievement and is aimed at promoting young people’s integration and participation in all spheres of society, independently of their starting differences (Declaration, I., 2015; OECD, 2015). Although equity and inclusion are important principles in Ticino’s education system, until now more inclusion efforts have been addressed on children with physical disabilities than on those who suffer from situations of social hardship. This presentation is focused on the so-called “educational centers for minors” (ECMs), which offer educational and social aid to children who cannot count on family support because they come from multiproblematic families or whose families are going through a difficult time (deaths, divorces, organic or psychiatric illnesses of family members, etc.) or because they have no families ties at all or suffer from relational or emotional difficulties or problems related to the use of drugs or alcohol. If part of them attend the mainstream school and spend only a few hours a week in the ECMs, others live in the ECMs until they are deemed able to attend the mainstream school. The preliminary results of a research currently underway and aimed at exploring the educational opportunities of ECMs’ young guests will be presented. Students that attend these centers constitute a population that, although minority, is significant and constantly increasing. In fact, a recent administrative report indicates that both the number of guests and public spending for these institutions have more than doubled in the last 10 years. To these numbers it is necessary to add those, still hardly quantifiable, linked to the arrival of unaccompanied minors following the important migratory phenomena that are taking place in these years. Methodology The study aims to explore the scholastic and vocational paths of the students, which are analyzed both in a quantitative and in a qualitative sense. The quantitative analysis is made possible by the existence of an administrative database in use in the regional school system that allows to outline the trajectories of the students from the beginning of primary school up to the achievement of a post-compulsory diploma. On the other hand, qualitative analysis is based on in-depth interviews aimed at better understanding the human experience of the young users of ECMs and in their inclusion both in these structures, as well as in the post-compulsory school. Other elements of analysis come from interviews with teachers, managers and social workers of the ECMs. Expected findings/Conclusions We expect children and youngsters attending the ECMs to have poorer school results, to be over-represented in less (or perceived to be less) ambitious post-compulsory educational paths (the so-called “transitional solutions” aimed at promoting the access to vocational schools and vocational school themselves), to exhibit a more fragmented school career and to have, on average, more difficulties in obtaining a post-compulsory diploma. We expect that if a part of them succeeds in achieving a post-compulsory school diploma it happens thanks to the formal mentoring, which in Ticino is well developed (Zanolla et al., 2013), and to vocational school, which has proved particularly capable of including young people from disadvantaged social background (Zanolla, 2017). Very few, probably, manage to achieve a high school diploma that allows access to university studies, since in this type of studies success seems a prerogative of those who come from the most advantaged social groups (Zanolla, 2017). The most vulnerable youngsters who lack of the soft skills and the social capital that would enable them to apply for a traineeship and succeed are probably those who show more difficulties in orientation in the network of institutional support system and whose dropout risk is higher. To put it with the terms of Putnam (2016) we expect part of the ECMs users to have a lower capacity “to understand the institutions that stand astride the path to opportunity and to make those institutions work for them”. The analysis of the interviews with the young people who attended the ECMs should allow us to understand both how a difficult social experience can affect the school results and the trajectories in the post-compulsory education, and how the joint action of the actors working in the educational system and in the social aid system can attenuate the inequalities in training opportunities.

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