School market and the democratization of education: one step forward, two steps back. The case of the Canadian Province of Quebec.

The purpose of this article is to show that since the 1980s, educational inequalities in Quebec have gradually been reconfigured through the school market. The results obtained from a sample (N = 24,085) of a cohort of students who entered their first year of secondary school in 2002–2003 and who were observed for up to ten years (2012–2013) show that the influence of social origin on educational inequalities operates in large part via mediation of the type of institution attended. The results indicate that enrollment in selective schools, whether public or private, is closely associated to the social characteristics of the students: socioeconomic and ethnocultural origin, gender and mother tongue. In addition, there is a strong association between attendance at these same institutions, access to higher education and graduation. We conclude that the persistence of the reproduction of social inequalities in education is the result of the interactive and combined effects of social power relations related to class and ethnicity, and the current organization of public policies in education. This reveals a paradox as school markets have been promoted by public policies in the name of strengthening democratization and improving the quality of education.

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