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10th Anniversary Conference of the HSE –St.Petersburg Department of Sociology

Anniversary Conference “Sociology in Action” was held on March 2 and 3, 2012 at HSE – St.Petersburg.

Anniversary Conference “Sociology in Action” was held on March 2 and 3, 2012 at HSE – St.Petersburg. The conference was dedicated to the 10th anniversary of St. Petersburg Department of Sociology of HSE. On the 1st March the student part of the conference was held, one of its sections was organized by SESL. In the next two days the reports were made by professors and researchers from HSE as well as by social scientists from the other universities. At the conference several sections, such as "Age identity (young / old age)", "Politics, State and Law", "Migrants and Migration," "Parenthood," "The production of social identities in the texts," and others were comprised.

On March, 2 in the section "Social Structure and Social Inequality" Daniel Alexandrov presented the results of collective work of the Laboratory in his report "Social Selection and Ethnic Segregation in Schools." Data collected by the Laboratory lead to the conclusion that the educational market is highly segmented in St. Petersburg schools. Such situation has several reasons, but the most important of them is imposed by per capita financing of schools. Small schools find it profitable to enroll migrant children as otherwise they will be under-funded or even closed. Selected examples on micro level illustrate this situation. For example, in the Central District of St.Petersburg there are three schools that are very close to each other: in the first one there are a lot of migrants, in the two others there are practically no migrants at all. Such micro segregation is also formed in a small town of Sestroretsk and in other cases. Another reason for interschool segregation is housing stratification, when one school attracts children from the elite houses and in another children from from slums where illegal immigrants live would study (a specific example that was studied in the Admiralty district.)

If we compare St. Petersburg and Moscow region, the situation is quite different in suburban areas, and presented scheme does not always work. In the town of Korolev near Moscow, for example, the mechanisms and sorting and selection are completely different, but the situation in the town of Mytishchi is more reminiscent to St. Petersburg.

Daniel Alexandrov concluded that there are different local systems, which can be operated by different rules. The boundaries of "local educational systems" do not coincide with the administrative boundaries of the areas that most clearly seen in Nevsky District in which sorting and selection are going on simultaneously on both banks of the Neva river. Parents do not want their children to commute to school on the other side of the river. Accordingly, it is impossible to analyze selection and sorting in schools on nationwide data, otherwise the researcher risks to get "the average temperature in the hospital."

Currently the researchers of the Laboratory are working on analyzing network dynamics of anti-school culture. In the multilevel regression model not only the individual level, but the school level and the level of "cliques" - groups of schoolchildren who communicate with each other tightly, were included. A special program Kliquefinder was very helpful in identifying cliques; this software identifies cliques in the network data. The sample study is very large - 419 full networks in classes of 104 schools, it makes possible to compare the effect of the environment with the effect of schools. Multiple regression analysis shows that the most of the variation in anti-school attitudes, performance and other characteristics due to the level of cliques (26%) rather than the school level (5%). Accordingly, it can be assumed that in the cliques anti-school attitudes as well as decisions about subsequent education are formed.

The report was followed by many questions from the audience. The first question was about the measurement of anti-school attitudes. Daniel Alexandrov explained that in the Laboratory’s research they are measured by normative and attitude scales on which indices are constructed. As it was mentioned that schoolchildren tend to answer normative questions as it is expected, it does not help much to combine attitudes and norms into one index. The laboratory plans to develop the instrument in this regard.

Another question was about attitudes towards migrant children in schools. In St. Petersburg migrants often study in weak schools where their academic performance is better than of their non-migrant classmates. Teachers praise them for their hard work, diligence and respect for teachers and for school.

An important issue is related to networks of friendship among children of migrants. Daniel Alexandrov mentioned that ethnic majority children are "ethnically blind" (the nationality of their friends does not matter for them). Migrant children also do not form mono-ethnic coalitions, but often prefer to make friends with those classmates who experienced migration and thus have similar background.

The official closing ceremony was held on March 3, 2012 at the Round Table which was moderated by Daniel Alexandrov. New requirements to the quality of empirical studies, their methodological transparency, theoretical issues, the public role of social scientists and other topics were discussed.

 

By Veronica Kostenko and Ekaterina Trofimova