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‘Everyone has their own qualities’: tracking and academic self-appraisal in Flemish secondary education


Track position has an impact on students’ perceptions of educational success. These perceptions matter as they relate to educational and professional aspirations and choices. In this ethnographic study, based on ethnographic observations and semi-structured interviews in three secondary schools in Flanders (northern part of Belgium), we want to increase our understanding of the combination of within- and between track comparisons for students’ perceptions of their educational success. The hierarchical nature of the Flemish educational system is reflected in students’ comparison groups to evaluate their school success. In academic tracks, most students considered their educational career automatically as successful, regardless of their actual grades. Conversely, students in vocational tracks developed more contradictory feelings with respect to their personal school success and felt the need to distinguish themselves from their classmates. Thus, regardless the existence of different school cultures across tracks, students searched for strategies to define themselves as successful in school.

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This work was supported by the Flanders Research Foundation (FWO) under Grant FWO09/ASP/098.

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Correspondence to Lore Van Praag.

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Van Praag, L., Demanet, J., Stevens, P.A.J. et al. ‘Everyone has their own qualities’: tracking and academic self-appraisal in Flemish secondary education. Soc Psychol Educ 20, 601–618 (2017).

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  • Secondary education
  • Tracking system
  • Belgium
  • Success