The other side of the tracks: How academic streaming impacts student relationships


  • Sachin Maharaj University of Ottawa
  • Sana Zareey University of Toronto



tracking, academic streaming, social identity theory


While the inequitable academic impacts of curricular tracking are well understood, less attention has been paid to its social impacts. Utilizing focus groups and in-depth interviews with students and parents in a low-income neighbourhood in Toronto, Canada, this paper uses social identity theory to explore how tracking impacts the nature of relationships between students in different tracks. Findings include that tracking contributed to widening social divides between students, working to replicate and reinforce social stratification, with negative consequences falling most heavily on those assigned to lower tracks. Students formed friendships primarily with same-track peers, while negative stereotyping and bullying across tracks was common. Tracking also increased racial divisions, which led to geographic segregation and schools becoming a racially divided space.




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Author Biographies

Sachin Maharaj, University of Ottawa

Sachin Maharaj is an assistant professor of educational leadership, policy and program evaluation at the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on teacher unions, school boards, and the equity implications of school choice.

Sana Zareey, University of Toronto

Sana Zareey is an educator and doctoral student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.




How to Cite

Maharaj, S., & Zareey, S. (2022). The other side of the tracks: How academic streaming impacts student relationships. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 30, (118).



Educational Policies and Equity