Analysing educational transitions in upper secondary and higher education in Mexico. An empirical application of the capability approach and sociological perspectives on inequalities in education
Mendoza Cazarez, Dulce Carolina
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In spite of educational expansion, a considerable number of individuals are not able to participate in upper secondary and higher education in Mexico. The main purpose of this thesis is to examine the factors influencing individuals’ opportunities to make higher educational transitions in Mexico. These transitions are: participation in upper secondary education, completion of upper secondary education and progression to higher education. A parallel objective is to investigate the predictors of persons’ institutional location in the upper secondary level. It is argued that the majority of the international studies in the field of educational transitions, as well as most of the studies conducted for Mexico in this area, have focused on examining the chances of entering an educational level but less attention has been paid on examining the opportunities of concluding a given level of education. This dissertation explores the chances of completing upper secondary education and it incorporates school dropouts in the analysis of educational transitions. Another important purpose is to conduct interdisciplinary theoretical work. A theoretical framework composed of the capability approach, sociocultural reproduction theory and contemporary sociological perspectives on inequalities in education is used to operationalize key concepts and to provide possible explanations of persons’ decisions to participate in upper secondary and higher education. From the capability approach, human agency, preferences and rationality have influence on educational decision-making. From Bourdieu’s sociocultural reproduction theory, educational choices are not freely made because they are determined by cultural and socioeconomic constraints. Furthermore, drawing on the integrative theoretical framework several hypotheses are formulated and some of them are empirically tested using national survey data for Mexico: The School Dropouts Survey, 2011. The investigation adopts a quantitative methodology which includes the estimation of binomial and multinomial logistic regression models. This study found that the effects of ascriptive factors such as social and ethnic background, gender and geographical location vary for each school transition. In addition, some of these factors contribute to predict person’s location in academic and vocational pathways of upper secondary education. Nevertheless, individuals’ capacity to attain higher levels of schooling is not completely determined by structural-related aspects. This thesis found that agency and capability dimensions such as freedom to choose school, aspirations and persons’ preferences towards education are not only intrinsically valuable but instrumentally relevant for making higher educational transitions. Furthermore, the type of institution attended and academic performance matter for entering and completing upper secondary and for attending higher education. This thesis concludes that the degree to which structural factors, agency and capability dimensions and school experiences make an impact on individuals’ educational trajectories is significantly affected by specific institutional arrangements at each stage of education. Finally, the empirical evidence of this thesis has a number of important implications for educational policies in Mexico.