Parents and School Choice (PASC)

Family Strategies, Segregation and School Policies in Chilean and Finnish Basic Schooling

  • Funded by the Academy of Finland and Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica de Chile for years 2010–2013
  • The Leading researchers: Professor Hannu Simola (responsible, University of Helsinki), Professor Risto Rinne (University of Turku) & Professor Dagmar Raczynski Von Oppen (responsible, The Catholic University of Chile)
  • The researchers: Jaana Poikolainen (University of Helsinki), Piia Seppänen (University of Turku), Janne Varjo (University of Helsinki), Sari Silmäri-Salo (University of Turku), Sonja Kosunen (University of Helsinki), Mira Kalalahti (University of Helsinki).

Ever since the 1980s school choice has been a core element in the global restructuring of public education. Many researchers heed the warnings that ‘parental choice’ may be a key issue in future policies for comprehensive education: will the ideal of common and shared schools for all citizens survive or will it be eroded by a reality in which the offspring of the haves and the have-nots attend separate schools?

Chile and Finland are clearly very different societies and cultures but they are faced with a common global policytrend. Comparison of two such dissimilar countries creates challenging methodological problems of course, but it also offers curious prospects. On the one hand, the disparate context may shed more light on the educational strategies of families and the mechanisms they employ. There may be some principles of commonality at play. On the other hand, tracing the effects of the same educational policy ‘pandemic’, such as parental or free school choice, in dissimilar contexts could also add to the understanding of problems of transfer that have kept comparativists fully occupied for the past two decades. We may well ask if there are some systems of dispersion to be found there.

The objective of this research project is to explore the affiliation between parental educational strategies, social segregation and local school-choice policies. Finnish families in three major cities and Chilean families in two metropolitan areas will be interviewed and surveyed, and the resulting analysis will focus on pupil streams into and out of certain schools on the one hand and social segregation in related residential areas on the other. The emphasis will be on the parental school-choice processes and educational strategies of students leaving primary education and continuing to the lower-secondary level. We intend to contribute to the current discussion on the heated topic of school choice in terms of both research and policy: how would it be possible to limit the segregative effects of school choice in basic education? In relating family- and local-level policies to national, regional and global discourses we also aim to shed some light on the problematic of policy convergence, transformation and intersection in late-modern and globalised information societies.

Carried out by two national research teams each in two different local settings (the Helsinki metropolitan area and the city of Turku in Finland; the Santiago and Valparaiso metropolitan areas in Chile), the project will bring together a consortium of senior and junior researchers involved in segregation and family studies, social geography and studies on trans-national, national and local policies and politics. It will pool methodological know-how gleaned from statistical, interview and documentary analysis.

There is a direct link between this and the Parents and School Choice – Family Strategies, Segregation and School Policies in Finnish Comprehensive Schooling project (2009–2012), funded by the Academy of Finland and being conducted by the Finnish partners. There are also immediate connections to contemporary research in Europe and Latin America, and to two projects in particular: Fabricating Quality in European Education, which compares the effects and consequences of quality-assurance and evaluation policies in five European countries, and Public Education and Parental Choice in Chile (2008–2009), the very first Chilean study on this topic.