Concepts and Objectives

Across Europe, policy-makers, experts, and practitioners have repeatedly pointed to the growing importance of ethnicity in forging young people’s career paths and life chances in general. In spite of considerable investments in education by the European welfare states, and political and legal efforts to promote anti-discrimination policies in private and public domains alike, ethnic differences in schooling still forge significant inequalities in opportunities for meaningful participation in economic, social and political life. Differentiations in education contribute to socially determining minority positions on the basis of ethnicity, with all the implied constraints on exercising full citizenship. Hence the ways in which educational practices address ethnic differences appear to be crucial in developing social inclusion based on equal citizenship and recognition, arguably the basic values of European democracies. Despite great variations in economic development and welfare state arrangements, recent developments seem to lead to similar consequences for certain groups of second-generation immigrants in the western half of the continent and Roma in Central and Eastern Europe. Regardless of whether they are citizens of old or new member states of the European Union, people affiliated to these groups tend to experience new and intensive forms of involuntary separation, second-class citizenship, or exclusion.

This project offers a comprehensive framework for an insightful understanding of the specificities in variations of ‘minoritization’ on ethnic grounds combined with an integrated approach to the general issues of citizenship. Through applying a cross-national comparative perspective, the proposed research project aims to explore the overt and covert mechanisms in socio-economic, political, cultural, and gender relations that make ethnicity a substantive component of inequalities in social status and power. In this context, educational systems are viewed in terms of the part they play in social reproduction, i.e. as forms of embodiment of differential access to, and distribution of, socially relevant knowledge. Schools, in helping define for young people the meanings of identity formation, family and community ties, and career aspirations, are considered to be key institutional locations, facing, relating to, and intervening in the broader social debates and practices on ethnic differences. Using this lens, the research will critically examine how schools operate in their roles of socialization and knowledge distribution, and how they contribute, in this way, to reducing, maintaining, or deepening inequalities in young people’s access to the labor market, further education and training, and also to different domains of social, cultural, and political participation.

The main objectives of the project are as follows:

  1.  to develop an integrated investigation into the factors that forge ethnic differences in education and their consequences for the lives of young people in ethnically diverse communities throughout Europe. To this end, a comprehensive theoretical framework will be elaborated to explain commonalities and potentially different causes and outcomes of the processes of ‘minoritization’ and social exclusion of second-generation migrant and Roma youth. Up until now these cases have been analyzed separately, therefore this research breaks new ground; 
  2. to study in cross-national perspective how everyday interactions in urban communities generate distinctive school practices. These are understood in terms of their own complexities as well as part of more encompassing political and distributive structures. Local inter-ethnic confrontations and clashes over and within schools will be examined in the broader context of variations in interacting ethnic relations, educational policies and welfare regimes across Europe; 
  3. to examine how the discourses, patterns, and performances of identity formation among young people are constituted through school practices. The research will reveal how and when ethnic categories become relevant, and these will be explored with reference to alternative identifications such as gender, class, religion, family background, and peer subculture. Further, special attention will be paid to variations in reactive identity strategies, and their consequences for lifestyles, strategies and prospects for minority ethnic youth; 
  4. to study and compare how educational practices and identity formation contribute to claims on citizenship. The project intends to uncover how educational practices marking and crossing ethnic lines generate incentives to understand and claim citizenship among youth, and how schools themselves become subject of citizenship claims in inter-ethnic contexts; 
  5. to formulate evidence-based policy recommendations toward the inclusion of often marginalized ethnic youth in and through education. The research collective intends to revisit the principles of diversity and multicultural citizenship in shaping macro-level policies in education, to assess the (non)inclusion effects of local educational practices, and to feed this knowledge into decision-making over local schooling, and the training and in-service training of teachers, managers and other personnel in education.

EDUMIGROM will carry out a comparative research in both old and new member states of the European Union, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Conceptual framework

The research project approaches ethnic differences in education and prospect for youth from the distinct but closely interrelated perspectives of structures, claims, and identities.

EDUMIGROM uses the following organizing themes to investigate the differentiating process as:

  • a product and also a producer of structures in social, economic, cultural and power relations;
  •   a source of mobilization around conflicting claims for inclusion;
  • a terrain of identity formation through which group consciousness is constituted.

This threefold approach allows us on the one hand to describe and analyze the ways in which macro-level structural forces are coalesced into individual and group identities, and on the other, map the impact of shifts in micro-level ethnic relations on articulating needs and claims for change at the structural level.