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Abstracts of dissertations

Effort and "Vocation": The Production of Provisions for Academic Success among Students of the Escola Técnica Federal from São Paulo
 
Author
Bandera, Nicolau Del
nicolaudelabandera@gmail.com
Brazil

Supervisor
Sylvia Gemignani Garcia
Sociology
Universidade de São Paulo
Brazil

Year of completion 2011

language of dissertation Portuguese

Keywords
  • family
  • middle class
  • high school
  • cultural capital
Areas of Research
  • Education
  • Family Research
  • Stratification
Abstract
The main goal of this thesis is to explain the position of a reputable public high school in São Paulo, the Escola Técnica Federal, and the production of the dispositions that support the academic success of its students. The Escola Federal has hybrid institutional characteristics that appear in the professional and pedagogical practices amongst teachers themselves, such as: pedagogical laxity; highly qualified faculty; relative autonomy in teaching; academics rituals typical of public universities; and the absence of a unifying pedagogical project. The admissions test is the main institutional characteristic of the school; this test produces a public strongly sensitive to the educational action of the institution, and a feeling of election among the admitted students. The students at Federal inherit from their families an initial cultural capital that has a high academic income, mainly because it is associated with another heritage--the mythological narrative of family past. The hypothesis for students’ high academic investment was developed based on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory and suggests that the tendency to invest in formal education varies according to the degree in which the maintenance or the possibility for the family’s social mobility depends on the school. In order to overcome the barriers that set apart fractions of middle classes from fractions of dominant classes, these students use a symbolic repertoire. This symbolic repertoire includes a history of a family’s success, ascetic values and belief in personal merit that are necessary to justify and to encourage a student’s social and academic achievements. Therefore, this thesis aims to reconcile two approaches about academic success: on one hand, the explication of academic success based on structural factors, such as the social position of the family as well as the institution in the space of high schools in São Paulo; and, on the other hand, the interpretation of the students’ motivations and representations about their studies, and some of the identities that are produced through the interaction between students, including the labels of nerd and prodigy. Finally, this thesis shows how the educational and social backgrounds of the Federal students bound their field of possibilities regarding their choices of colleges. The data for this research is based on ethnographic observation of the daily life of the school, a survey questionnaire administered to 257 students, as well as in-depth interviews with 21 students, four teachers and two mothers of students.