Many media have paid attention to research conducted by Bastian Ravesteijn, Assistant Professor Applied Economics at Erasmus School of Economics. Among others de Volkskrant (23 April 2022) and NPO Radio 1 (23 April 2022). In his research, Ravesteijn analysed the class composition of primary school pupils in the Netherlands. Several remarkable findings have been made, which may help solve segregation at primary schools.
Ravesteijn and his co-researcher van de Kraats investigated the class composition of primary school pupils in the Netherlands. Specifically, they analysed parental income, migration background and final test scores of approximately 350.000 pupils. The results of their study have been made comprehensible on the interactive website www.KansenKaart.nl.
Segregation in primary school
Their research shows that segregation begins already during primary education. Discussions about segregation however, mainly focusses on segregation during secondary education. Segregation in education is undesirable. It may increase the inequality in opportunities of children, since teachers avoid schools with a ‘challenging student population’, warns the Education Inspectorate.
The researchers were already aware of segregation occurring in schools and residential areas in the Netherlands. Still, the huge differences in class composition of primary school children surprised them. For instance, wealthy children almost never visit schoolmates whose parents earn a minimum wage. Vice versa for poorer children. Also, from a cultural perspective the researchers observed strong segregation. Children who have a Moroccan background have, on average, eleven schoolmates whose both parents were born outside of the Netherlands. In contrast, children with a migrant background have, on average, only 1.5 schoolmates with a migrant background. The researchers explain that this cultural segregation cannot be explained by differences in income. Furthermore, higher levels of segregation seem to occur in larger cities relative to smaller cities.
Segregation and final test scores
Ravesteijn also discovered an association between final test scores and the number of poor (rich) children in a class. Children of high-income parents score worse on the final test if they have many classmates with low-income parents. Children whose parents have a low income score higher on average when they are in the class with children of high-income parents. However, the assistant professor stresses that this association cannot be interpreted as a causal relationship.