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The politics of equal-opportunity policy in compulsory education in Switzerland Flavia Fossati

This project examines the attitudes of the Swiss population, especially native parents and teaching staff, towards policy measures that promote equal opportunities for immigrant students. Moreover, this study examines the reasons for the failure or success of some important educational reforms to promote equal opportunities for immigrants (e.g., in the cantons of Geneva, Zurich, and Neuchâtel). Taken together, we investigate whether the reasons for the failure or success of these policies are related to the preferences of the native population, and those of teachers and parents, as well as to the strategies, preferences and decisions of political actors in the educational field.

The integration of migrants is one of the main challenges facing Western societies, as their performance is often inferior to that of the native-born. In the field of education, the problem lies in the fact that many education systems reinforce the exclusion and poor performance of students with a migrant background. Concretely, we can observe this phenomenon in Switzerland, where immigrants obtain different results according to the cantons and therefore according to specific educational policies and systems.

Effective ways to reduce these educational inequalities are proposed in the literature, but they are not always accepted by the parents of native students, by teachers, or by other political actors. Consequently, sometimes promising reforms are not necessarily implemented due to high political cost.

The objective of this project is to understand which equal opportunity measures - known to be effective in improving the outcomes of migrants - would be accepted by the general population and especially by native parents as well as teachers, and in which (cantonal) contexts these measures could be implemented. Furthermore, the project analyses the actors and processes responsible for the success or failure of the implementation of specific equal opportunity policies concerning (vulnerable) immigrant students. For example, this project analyses why in Neuchâtel early tracking, which is detrimental to students with an immigrant background was successfully abolished. Conversely, in a popular vote in Geneva on May 15, 2022, such early tacking was maintained to the detriment of immigrant and other vulnerable students.

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