Educational pathways of youth: narratives on (im)mobility and talent

Background and purpose

My paper focused on youth in transition: meeting youth making choices around their further education and whether they stay in their local community or move out. There were two lines of research interest that ran through my study. First was the question of talents and strengths. Choices around work and education made by the youth are informed by a growing understanding of the strengths and talents that they have as well as how to utilize their developing capacity to provide for themselves. Second was the question of (im)mobility. Choices around work and education are also intimately connected to the places in which the youth aspire to live their lives and which provide them the opportunity to study and work.  It has been pointed out that the field of migration research has been affected by a “mobility bias”, a disproportionate focus on why people move. In this connection, there has been a call to better understand the concept of “immobility”, and why it is that some six out of seven people in the world are not on the move.

The purpose of my study was to contribute to a wider conception of talents by considering both the intellectual and moral development aspects in conversations of youth. Similarly, in the field of migration my goal was to offer insight into the processes of (im)mobility, and so contribute to the discussion on the “capacity to stay”, an aspect of migration theory that remains understudied.

Discussion and future research

The narrative analysis of the naturally occurring conversation I had recorded provided rich insights into the two areas of inquiry. The analysis demonstrated the usefulness of the ”aspiration-capability” framework as an instrument in migration research by describing how “(im)mobility” and “capacity to stay” emerged in the narratives of youth. Further, by utilizing the perspective of positive psychology, I discussed at length how meaning was given to the development of talents and strengths by youth in their narratives.

A theme that emerged in the context of both research questions was the role of youth engagement in their local community life. Seeing the positive effect of these relationships in the narratives analyzed in this study, I suggest for subsequent studies to inquire what youth can offer to their communities and what the communities can offer them, and how this reciprocity is cultivated, rather than merely addressing the often cited tensions between youth and their communities.

The conversations had with youth in this study, both in terms of their mobility and in terms of their ability to recognise and develop their talents, were not just a recurring feature in the narratives of youth, but an action that went beyond words. The actions taken by the people in the youths’ lives had an impact on the choices they made concerning their education and its transformative effect on their lives.


Maria-Patricia Jansson

Educational pathways of youth: narratives on (im)mobility and talent


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