Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Aspirations and Expectations of Immigrant and Ethnic Minority Students in Spain

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Aspirations and Expectations of Immigrant and Ethnic Minority Students in Spain

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Spanish society is becoming increasingly heterogeneous by virtue of, among other issues, the wave of immigration that has occurred over the past two decades. In only a short number of years (1998-2010), the foreign population grew from 1.6% of the total population to 12.1% (INE, 2010). However, irrespective of this relatively recent phenomenon, Spain has been home to ethnic minorities for many centuries, as is the case of the Romani population. By seeing what the educational experience of this collective has been we can intuit the expectations and educational trajectories that will be followed by students of foreign origin and other ethnic minorities. Nevertheless, beyond the rather bleak verifications, it should be pointed out that there are different actions that may indicate certain changes in this trend and that may emerge as anti-racist actions promoting greater equity and social inclusion.

The objective of this article is to identify, on the one hand, the representation of minority students in a Spanish university and on the other, to analyze how the educational expectations of students of immigrant origin and ethnic minorities, and their immediate educational environment, can define their educational trajectory and access to the university.

To do so, this study analyzes from a qualitative perspective the narratives of minority students currently enrolled in secondary school (Note 1) as well as university students of similar origin. Bearing in mind that the influence of teachers and the institutional dynamics that occur in all processes of educational exclusion/inclusion are relevant, we also interviewed and analyzed the discourse of different professionals connected to this educational stage, principally secondary school teachers.

Although the different tracks in the educational system of the population can be conditioned by the socioeconomic situation of families (Coleman et al., 1966; Bowles & Gintis, 1976) or by the presence of other significant persons-really significant others-such as family, teachers or peer group (Haller & Portes, 1973; Portes & Fernández-Kelly, 2008); various studies have also emphasized how the presence or absence of racial prejudice, or low or high expectations among teachers and other educational agents, can have a negative or positive effect on the achievement level of ethnic minority students (Fergusson, 1998; Flecha, 1999; Sordé, 2006; Ladson-Billings, 2009; Gillborn & Youdell, 2000). All of these elements, thus, play a decisive role in a large part of the processes of educational and social exclusion/inclusion of young people.

Does the Spanish case differ with regard to other national contexts? The hypothesis presented in this work is that, in addition to all the other factors referred to by earlier research in the framework of the Spanish state, which accentuates, above all, the socioeconomic component of these students and their families, as well as the human capital of the same; the existence of prejudices among teachers also has significant importance, as does the perception that the student has respect for the accompaniment offered to them in their educational trajectory in secondary education, whether obligatory or post-obligatory.

How to overcome the prejudices of the community, and in particular of teachers, and how to overcome the solitude and "abandonment" suffered by these young people are challenges that many ethnic minority students must confront, as we will see later, in order to successfully complete secondary school and gain entry to the university.

2. Theoretical Framework

2.1 Aspirations, Expectations and School Success among Minority Students

Even though the educational expectations of parents (Coleman, 1988; Hao & Bonstead-Burns, 1998; Goyette & Xie, 1999) as well as those of the peer group (Duncan, Haller, & Portes, 1968; Sokatch, 2006) are usually of importance in positively or negatively determining the aspirations of minority students from vulnerable socioeconomic environments, teachers' expectations also have an impact and therefore, must be kept well in mind in sociological analysis. …

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