As part of a study funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), the degree of openness of the school systems in Germany and Switzerland and the influence of social disparities in the transition to post-compulsory education are being investigated in cooperation with the Basel University of Teacher Education (FHNW), the University of Fribourg and the University of Potsdam.
Both the German and the Swiss school systems are structured by transitions, where learners leave one type of school and enter subsequent educational opportunities. The transition from compulsory schooling to post-compulsory education is particularly important because it involves aspects of vocational orientation and thus predetermines individual career biographies. However, findings on this transition show that it is socially selective. In recent decades, virtually all school systems have introduced opportunities to "correct" educational decisions. In addition, attractive educational options have been created in some cases (e.g., vocational baccalaureate in Switzerland) or expanded (cf. vocational high schools in Germany). However, there is a lack of empirical research to date that comparatively examines the extent to which these opening options are used or whether the opening of the secondary school sector may even result in a worsening of social disparities. Another question that has not yet been adequately addressed is the interaction of social background and psychological characteristics in transfer decisions.
The study, which started in September 2012, will first examine the extent to which the opening at the transition to post-compulsory education is used in three different school systems (Baden-Württemberg, Basel-Stadt, German Fribourg) and which main patterns of school biographies result from this. Second, the role of family background is included; the extent to which the use of available opening options in the school system reduces or increases social disparities - after controlling for performance characteristics - is investigated. Third, we investigate two sets of psychological factors (occupational interest profiles and effort investment) that may explain the relationship between family background characteristics and educational choices. For this purpose, a sample of about 4,000 students in all school types is tested in the middle of the ninth grade. About 18 months later, a written follow-up survey will ask about the actual vocational and educational paths taken.