Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 601–618 | Cite as

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

  • Lore Van PraagEmail author
  • Jannick Demanet
  • Peter A. J. Stevens
  • Mieke Van Houtte


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.


Secondary education Tracking system Belgium Success 



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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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