“We need more nuanced knowledge about young immigrants in school”

By on 13.07.2016 in PhD thesis

181550_michael_lindblad_foto_per_melanderOur schools play an important role in the integration of young immigrant children  into our Nordic s0cieties shows Michael Lindblad’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Umeå.

Michael has studied problematic school-to-work transitions among young immigrant people in Sweden.

The good news are that it would not have taken much investment of resources and effort to have prevented school failure for a large proportion of the twenty young adults in this study.

“My focus has been on young people with uncompleted upper secondary education, drawing on their life stories, and exploring their perceptions and experiences around school failure, entering the labour market, and/or not being in education, employment or training,” says Michael.

There are problems and challenges, but there are good news as well:

“The overall conclusion is that it would not have taken much investment of resources and effort to have prevented school failure for a large proportion of the twenty young adults in this study. That is the good news,” says Michael.

Limiting factors on career choices

“The careers of the young people were developed in fields where they had subordinate positions, based on their family’s mostly limited social, economic and cultural capital, their own short education and limited experience, and the otherness they encountered”, Michael pinpoints.

Against this background, their educational and labour market career choices are understood as pragmaticrational, enabled and limited by the resulting horizons of action.

However, the collected narratives suggest that their horizons of action developed from the time they left school when they made different pragmatic-rational choices that changed their positions. Nevertheless, career choices were often made within a bounded agency and reduced opportunities as a consequence of school failure and their own scarce resources.

“The narratives of the young people showed that school failures and dropout are complex and extended processes that are related to education and family, as well as access to power and capital,” Michael concludes.

They also encountered difference-making through the predominant images and discourses of ‘immigration’ as a social problem and by being located in a specific socio-geographic space that limited their possibilities for action.

The family’s situation affected their choices

The family was highly significant and, in most cases, represented security and continuity. The family’s present situation and future was crucial to the young adults, which affected their choices. Hence, their own horizon of action also included the family’s opportunities and horizon of action.

The study indicates that there is sometimes reason to speak of a collective horizon of action rather than just an individual one. Institutional and informal support together with young people’s agency may enable positive career development in spite of a lack of resources provided to the young, particularly if schools and other institutions would provide more professional and timely support.

Methodologically, the thesis is based on narrative research, and the empirical material comprise life stories of twenty young people (men and women) about their lives, school experiences and time after leaving school.





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