Boys and young men with immigrant background are, compared to their native peers, at higher risk of dropping out of the educational system and being unavailable to the job market later. This phenomenon is labelled as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). In Finland the CONNEXT for Inclusion project is searching for methods and ways to prevent particularly boys and young men to fall out of the education system and have a prosperous professional future instead.
To deliver supporting information on educational choices of boys, I focused in my Bachelor’s thesis on the transition process from lower to upper secondary school within the Finnish system and how choices are influenced by families, e.g. in form of transfer of socioeconomic status.
Additionally, I looked into boys’ experiences of communication between family and school, the support they get from teachers and school curators, their own suggestions on how to improve this support as well as their own experience of participation and disadvantage in society. I interviewed boys and young men from 2 different schools and made use of the Capabilities Approach developed by Martha C. Nussbaum in the analyzing process.
Importance of role models
As professionals in the social field support boys with immigrant background to find their future professional path, it is important to not only provide information on different choices, but also be available as a role model ourselves. It became obvious in my research, that boys benefit from having role models.
Throughout their process of growing up and becoming more independent from the family and parents, role models outside of the family setting gain more importance. They might also be found in organizations providing free-time activities, e.g. sport clubs. A social work practitioner might want to reach out to these players, if it seems to be of benefit for the development of the boy in question.
Certainly, family members play a role, e.g. values are being transferred and influence decision-making. This can be understood as an indication that the socio-economic status of one generation is transmitted to the next. Boys also discuss their educational choices with parents and use these discussions as reflections of their personal interest, motivation and values that lead to a certain decision on a future career.
However, the participants in this research stressed the importance of separating school and family life. Nonetheless, parents can have a motivating effect on the young men. E.g. one can make them proud by getting good grades. The young men see grading as a beneficent tool to estimate their own school performance and react accordingly in case there is a need. They could include their parents into this process. However, they did not express a need to involve their parents in a common forum with school professionals to consider questions that refer to their professional future.
Support networks for youth and families
The interviewees in my research showed high levels of participation. According to the Capabilities Approach they were able to envision their own future and apply practical reasoning skills in order to pursue a professional education (Nussbaum, M., 2011). Nonetheless, they experience disadvantage, e.g. learning Finnish is a challenge for first-generation immigrants.
The situation seems to be easier to tackle, if the experience is shared with other peers. A boy, who is embedded in a Finnish speaking class being the only non-Finnish speaker, most probably learns the language faster, but might have a rougher experience of this task and therefore needs support to deal with this phase, idealistically in form of peers, being in the same situation.
Similar phenomena can be seen in the social surroundings of the family. According to prior research, well functioning communities of minorities have a positive effect on the school performance of the children within the communities (Coles, B. et al, 2002, p.27). As social work professionals we can reach out, support the organization and structuring of these communities and include them into the support system of families. They can also be included into the decision-making process of boys with immigrant background, supporting the boys’ own network of peer support.
Text: Moritz Cartheuser, Social Services student, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences
Picture: Kat Wilcox/ www.pexels.com
- Nussbaum, M., 2011. Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
- Coles, B.,Hutton, S., Bradshaw, J., Craig, G., Godfrey, C. & Johnson, J., 2002. Literature Review of the Costs of Being “Not in Education, Employment or Training” at Age 16-18. Norwich: Queen’s printer.
- Cartheuser, M. 2020. Participation and Educational Choices: Influence of Family and School on Immigrant Boys. Bachelor’s Thesis, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.