School choice within the upper class. Community, identity and social closure

Cristián Bellei, Victor Orellana, Manuel Canales


This article presents the results of a study about the reasons, motives and meanings associated with school choice among Chilean upper-class families. School choice has become a relevant issue in educational policy debates about marketization and privatization because it is linked to social segregation dynamics. The Chilean upper social class is an appropriate social space to study these issues since this group educates their children in a hyper-segregated set of very expensive private schools. The study followed a qualitative approach, conducting semi-structured interviews and focus groups in a prototypical zone of the upper social class in Santiago, Chile. Our main findings show the enormous relevance of communitarian, social and cultural concerns when choosing schools, seeking an identification between family and school community based on shared worldviews and social relationships. If we consider this social space as an educational market with prices, competition and school choice, this would be a market heavily embedded in a dense social world that support it and ultimately subordinate it. We also found some diversity within the upper social class, which is currently stressed by some processes of socio-cultural diversification.


school choice; privatization in education; qualitative research; school segregation; meaning of social action; high social class


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Copyright (c) 2020 Cristian Bellei


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