Educational Equality and Diversified Transitions of Immigrant Youth with/without Special Educational Needs

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:50
Oral Presentation
Markku JAHNUKAINEN, University of Helsinki, Finland
Mira KALALAHTI, University of Helsinki, Finland
Anna-Maija NIEMI, University of Helsinki, Finland
Janne VARJO, University of Helsinki, Finland
The national education systems construct various opportunity structures, which include different problematizations, mechanisms and solutions to issues in education policy and governance. One of the key principles of Finnish education is that the same educational opportunities should be available to all people irrespective of their ethnicity, age, gender, wealth, disability or place of residence.

During the last year in comprehensive school, all pupils face the first high stake choice making situation in the Finnish school system when applying for upper secondary education. This transition has proved to be problematic for youth with immigrant backgrounds and/or with special educational needs. They have reported to have difficulties in getting into mainstream education. In comparison with their counterparts, they face a considerably higher risk of either dropping out of education or remaining in various short-term training programs and projects.

In this study, we analyze with the discursive approach the ways in which local education authorities (teachers, study counselors, principals, n = 29) governing educational transitions consider the structural possibilities and obstacles that frame the educational transitions of young people with immigrant backgrounds and/or with special educational needs. The overall aim of this contribution is to combine the categorical interpretations of minority groups (immigrant backgrounds or special educational needs) with an understanding about institutional opportunity structures.

The solutions and practices targeted for these young people problematized as ‘special groups’ seem to be uniform and simple, offering often ‘second chance’ options for access to ‘regular’ and settled options. Those young people, who are not willing or able to set into these categories, have to face various multi-professional negotiations where the solutions for further studies are made. The presettled opportunity structure is a challenge to the overall emphasis of equal educational opportunities.