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Regulation and competition among schools in six European localities - C. Maroy, A. van Zanten

Christian Maroy
Girsef and Anthropology and Sociology Unit, University of Louvain, 1, place Montesquieu, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Agnès van Zanten
Sociological Observatory of Change, Sciences Po Paris, CNRS, 27, rue Saint-Guillaume, 75337 Paris cedex 07, France

Available online 12 May 2009 on ScienceDirect

According to this analysis of the dynamics of competition in six school zones in Europe (Charleroi, Budapest, Lisbon, London, Lille and the Paris area), secondary schools pursue “logics of action” that are shaped by an interdependence between local establishments. Parents’ strategies for choosing a school rank establishments and lead to a competitive interdependence with a pattern and intensity that vary depending on the place — the major issue being the capacity to attract and retain students. A typology of these “logics” is proposed : establishments pursue a logic of conquest, profit from the status quo, diversification or adaptation depending on their local position and the intensity of competition. Questions are raised about the potentials and limits of public interventions for regulating this competitive interdependence. Competition, along with its deviant effects (segregation and inequality), arises out of the shortcomings and limitations of public interventions and out of the fragmentation of local regulations. A lack of coordination between the authorities in charge, between districts and between the public and private supply of education affects the development of opportunistic tactics by certain establishments. The conclusion draws attention to the need for coordinating regulations.

Keywords : Competition ; Regulations ; Logics of action ; School segregation ; Competitive interdependence ; Marketplace ; Local school districts ; Europe

Article Outline

  • 1. Regulation, markets and competition
    • 1.1. A constructivist approach to regulating schools
    • 1.2. Multiregulation and competitive interdependencies between schools
  • 2. Competitive interdependencies and schools’ logics of action
    • 2.1. Locally constructed competitive interdependencies
    • 2.2. Ideal-type logics of action by schools responding to competition
  • 3. Variability and the limits of public regulations
    • 3.1. The role of values, knowledge and capacity to resist pressures from regulatory agents
    • 3.2. The structural limits of existing regulatory arrangements
  • 4. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 51, Supplement 1, June 2009, Pages e67–e79
Translation by Karen George