Background: Bridging educational and social psychology, we examine the impact of positive intergroup relations in schools on minority and nonminority school careers.
Purpose of Study: The study aims to estimate and explain the attainment gap between Turkish Belgian minority and Belgian nonminority students at four stages of their school careers, controlling for family background and prior attainment. Intergroup friendship and perceived teacher support were expected to reduce the attainment gap.
Research Design: Randomly sampled Turkish Belgian students and students in a nonminority comparison sample (N = 661) answered retrospective questions on their school careers and early schooling experiences. By way of separate multinomial logistic regressions, we estimated the attainment gap as the odds of leaving school or staying in vocational (vs. academic) education at four stages: lower, middle, upper secondary, and tertiary levels. Next, we tested the effects of intergroup friendship and teacher support on track placement and dropout at each level.
Results: As expected, our findings indicated a persistent and widening attainment gap between minority and nonminority school careers in the hierarchical structure of the Belgian school system. Minority students who had started in academic tracks were less likely to continue in academic and higher education and more likely to leave school at each stage than similar nonminority students. Intergroup friendship (for minority students) and perceived support from teachers (for all) significantly increased staying-on rates and reduced the attainment gap.
Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate the key role of positive intergroup relations with peers and teachers in enabling students, especially minority students, to stay on in school.