Is the sky really the limit? Exploring the attitude-achievement paradox in the Belgian context
Faculty of Social Sciences. Sociology
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
, p. 225-238
While immigrant students in Belgium have expressed high educational aspirations, if we compare them with ethnic majority students, those aspirations are not reflected in their achievement results. Ethnographic observations and semi-structured interviews with students from 10 class groups in three Flemish schools (northern part of Belgium) were used to understand why these high aspirations are not translated into actual examination results, also known as the attitude-achievement paradox. Our findings indicate that all students generally believe in the importance of education to get ahead in Belgian society. Analyses reveal, however, that although students of immigrant descent want to achieve in society, they perceive more barrierssuch as labor market discriminationthan those of non-immigrant descent to becoming successful. They have figured out distinct defensive coping strategies to circumvent those barriers, such as choosing jobs that do not invite discrimination and attempting to achieve in school in order to prove ones worth or prove someone wrong, all of which eventually seemed to affect their educational outcomes. The particular choices students made to deal with perceptions and experiences of discrimination should be understood within the local immigrant networks in which they live and depends on the (perceived) nature of discrimination.