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The unintended consequences of tracking: social disparities and inefficient learning

Lore Van Praag (UGent) , Simon Boone (UGent) , Peter Stevens (UGent) and Mieke Van Houtte (UGent)
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Abstract
An important feature of educational systems is the extent to which their secondary education is tracked. Secondary education in Flanders (Belgium) is characterized by early differentiation into rigidly stratified tracks and free choice between tracks. The practice of tracking is meant to provide adequate education for pupils with different study abilities and aspirations. However, the allocation system in Flanders seems to have some uncalled for side effects. The transition from primary to secondary education is a first important hinge point in pupils’ school careers. In fact, pupils aged twelve are confronted with a first important choice between academically and more practically oriented education at that specific moment. As choice is unrestrained – there are no standardized tests or binding recommendations − and as academically oriented education is the only option leaving all future possibilities open, the majority of pupils starts secondary education in an academically oriented track. In the course of secondary education, a lot of pupils change their track. Changes occur almost exclusively from the more prestigious academic tracks to the less prestigious vocational tracks. Based on analysis of large-scale survey data and ethnographic observations in three secondary schools the consequences of the allocation system in Flemish secondary education are discussed. First of all, we find that free choice leads to self-selection in that working class pupils are more likely to choose practically oriented secondary education from the start. Secondly, we find that learning in the final grades of vocationally oriented tracks is hindered by the fact that pupils in those tracks bring a variety of educational backgrounds with them.

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Chicago
Van Praag, Lore, Simon Boone, Peter Stevens, and Mieke Van Houtte. 2014. “The Unintended Consequences of Tracking: Social Disparities and Inefficient Learning.” In Houtte Education Systems : Inequalities, Labour Markets and Civic Engagement, Abstracts.
APA
Van Praag, L., Boone, S., Stevens, P., & Van Houtte, M. (2014). The unintended consequences of tracking: social disparities and inefficient learning. Houtte Education Systems : Inequalities, Labour Markets and Civic Engagement, Abstracts. Presented at the Houtte Education Systems : Inequalities, Labour Markets and Civic Engagement.
Vancouver
1.
Van Praag L, Boone S, Stevens P, Van Houtte M. The unintended consequences of tracking: social disparities and inefficient learning. Houtte Education Systems : Inequalities, Labour Markets and Civic Engagement, Abstracts. 2014.
MLA
Van Praag, Lore, Simon Boone, Peter Stevens, et al. “The Unintended Consequences of Tracking: Social Disparities and Inefficient Learning.” Houtte Education Systems : Inequalities, Labour Markets and Civic Engagement, Abstracts. 2014. Print.
@inproceedings{5700602,
  abstract     = {An important feature of educational systems is the extent to which their secondary education is tracked. Secondary education in Flanders (Belgium) is characterized by early differentiation into rigidly stratified tracks and free choice between tracks. The practice of tracking is meant to provide adequate education for pupils with different study abilities and aspirations. However, the allocation system in Flanders seems to have some uncalled for side effects. The transition from primary to secondary education is a first important hinge point in pupils{\textquoteright} school careers. In fact, pupils aged twelve are confronted with a first important choice between academically and more practically oriented education at that specific moment. As choice is unrestrained -- there are no standardized tests or binding recommendations \ensuremath{-}  and as academically oriented education is the only option leaving all future possibilities open, the majority of pupils starts secondary education in an academically oriented track. In the course of secondary education, a lot of pupils change their track. Changes occur almost exclusively from the more prestigious academic tracks to the less prestigious vocational tracks. Based on analysis of large-scale survey data and ethnographic observations in three secondary schools the consequences of the allocation system in Flemish secondary education are discussed. First of all, we find that free choice leads to self-selection in that working class pupils are more likely to choose practically oriented secondary education from the start. Secondly, we find that learning in the final grades of vocationally oriented tracks is hindered by the fact that pupils in those tracks bring a variety of educational backgrounds with them.},
  author       = {Van Praag, Lore and Boone, Simon and Stevens, Peter and Van Houtte, Mieke},
  booktitle    = {Houtte Education Systems : Inequalities, Labour Markets and Civic Engagement, Abstracts},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Amsterdam, The Netherlands},
  title        = {The unintended consequences of tracking: social disparities and inefficient learning},
  year         = {2014},
}