Student Disengagement in Comprehensive School in Turku, Southwest Finland

  • Tero JärvinenEmail author
  • Jenni Tikkanen
Part of the International Study of City Youth Education book series (SCYE, volume 2)


Due to its success in PISA studies since the early 2000s, Finnish education system has received worldwide attention. The highly standardized system with a relatively low level of stratification has been praised for its capability to promote educational equality. However, recent policy changes have reduced the system’s possibilities to provide equal educational opportunities and education of uniform quality to all citizens. Within comprehensive school, the introduction of free school choice policy has created local school markets, which has led, especially in large cities, to a situation where schools have been divided into high- and low-status schools. In this chapter, the relationship between different school-level factors and students’ behavioral disengagement is analyzed. A hypothesis is that the relationship between school’s structural features, such as school size and socioeconomic composition of the student population, and students’ disengagement is mediated through process-level factors, i.e., school culture. The multilevel input-process-output model provides a conceptual framework for testing this relationship. The results verify the hypothesis only partly. The connection of school’s structural features with students’ disengagement is not mediated through school culture, but the structure and culture are at the same “hierarchical” level both contributing to the disengagement through students’ intrapersonal attitudes and experiences.


IPO model School composition School culture Social system Structural equation modelling Comprehensive system 



This research was supported by the Academy of Finland under grant number 308306.


  1. Allmendinger, J. (1989). Educational systems and labour market outcomes. European Sociological Review, 5(3), 231–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderman, L. H. (2003). Academic and social perceptions as predictors of change in middle school students’ sense of school belonging. The Journal of Experimental Education, 72, 5–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andres, L., & Adamuto-Treche, M. (2008). Life-course transitions, social class and gender: a 15-year perspective of the lived lives of Canadian youth. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(2), 115–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Archambault, I., Janosz, M., Morizot, J., & Pagani, L. (2009). Adolescent behavioral, affective, and cognitive engagement in school: Relationship to dropout. Journal of School Health, 79(9), 408–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berisha, A.-K., Rinne, R., Järvinen, T., & Kinnari, H. (2017). Cultural capital, social justice and diversifying education. In K. Kantasalmi & G. Holm (Eds.), The state, schooling and identity: Diversifying education in Europe (pp. 149–172). Singapore, Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  6. Blondal, K. S., & Adalbjarnardottir, S. (2012). Student disengagement in relation to expected and unexpected educational pathways. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 56(1), 85–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. (1990). In other words. Essays towards a reflexive sociology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, P. (1993). Sociology in question. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J.-C. (1990). Reproduction in education, society and culture (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bulle, N. (2011). Comparing OECD educational models through the prism of PISA. Comparative Education, 47(4), 503–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Byrne, B. M. (2012). Structural equation modeling with Mplus. Basic concepts, applications, and programming. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Cedefop. (2015). On the way to 2020: Data for vocational education and training policies: Country statistical overviews. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
  15. Chiu, M. M. (2007). Families, economies, cultures and science achievement in 41 countries. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 510–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chiu, M. M., & Chow, B. W. Y. (2010). Culture, motivation, and reading achievement. Learning and Individual Differences, 20, 579–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chiu, M. M., & Zeng, X. (2008). Family and motivation effects on mathematics achievement. Learning and Instruction, 18, 321–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chiu, M. M., Pong, S. L., Mori, I., & Chow, B. W. Y. (2012). Immigrant students’ emotional and cognitive engagement at school: A multilevel analysis of students in 41 countries. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 1409–1425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cohen, J., McCabe, L., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record, 111(1), 180–213.Google Scholar
  20. Curran, P. J., West, S. G., & Finch, J. F. (1996). The robustness of test statistics to nonnormality and specification error in confirmatory factor analysis. Psychological Methods, 1, 16–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Demanet, J., & Van Houtte, M. (2011). Social-ethnic school composition and school misconduct: Does sense of futility clarify the picture. Sociological Spectrum, 31, 224–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Demanet, J., & Van Houtte, M. (2012a). School belonging and school misconduct: The differing role of teacher and peer attachment. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 499–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Demanet, J., & Van Houtte, M. (2012b). Teachers’ attitudes and students’ opposition. School misconduct as a reaction to teachers’ diminished effort and affect. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28, 860–869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dustmann, C. (2004). Parental background, secondary school track choice, and wages. Oxford Economic Papers, 56(2), 209–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS (and sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll) (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  26. Finn, J. D. (1989). Withdrawing From school. Review of Educational Research, 59(2), 117–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Horn, D. (2009). Age of selection counts: A cross-country analysis of educational institutions. Educational Research and Evaluation, 15(4), 343–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hospel, V., Galand, B., & Janosz, M. (2016). Multidimensionality of behavioral engagement: Empirical support and implications. International Journal of Educational Research, 77, 37–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1995). Evaluating model fit. In R. H. Hoyle (Ed.), Structural equation modeling. Concepts, issues, and applications (pp. 76–99). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Huguet, P., Dumas, F., Marsh, H., Régner, I., Wheeler, L., Suls, J., et al. (2009). Clarifying the role of social comparison in the big-fish-little-pond effect (BFLPE): An integrative study. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 97, 156–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jackson, P. (1968). Life in classrooms. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  33. Jahnukainen, M. (2011). Different strategies – Different outcomes? The history and trends of the inclusive and special education in Alberta (Canada) and Finland. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 55(5), 489–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kalalahti, M., Varjo, J., Zacheus, T., Kivirauma, J., Mäkelä, M.-L., Saarinen, M., et al. (2017). Maahanmuuttajataustaisten nuorten toisen asteen koulutusvalinnat [Immigrant youths’ transition from comprehensive school to upper secondary education in Finland]. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka, 82(1), 647–658.Google Scholar
  35. Kao, G., & Tienda, M. (1995). Optimism and achievement: The educational performance of immigrant youth. Social Science Quarterly, 76, 1–19.Google Scholar
  36. Kivinen, O., Hedman, J., & Kaipainen, P. (2007). From Elite university to mass education. Educational expansion, equality of opportunities and returns to university education. Acta Sociologica, 50(3), 231–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kivirauma, J., & Ruoho, K. (2007). Excellence through special education: Lessons from the Finnish School Reform. Review of Education, 53, 283–302.Google Scholar
  38. Kline, R. B. (2011). Principles and practice of structural equation modelling (3rd ed.). New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  39. Kosunen, S., Bernelius, V., Seppänen, P., & Porkka, M. (2016). School Choice, to Lower Secondary Schools and Mechanism of Segregation in Urban Finland. Urban Education. Published online ahead of print 21 Oct 2016.
  40. Lahelma, E. (2002). School is for meeting friends: Secondary school as lived and remembered. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23(3), 367–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lamb, S. (2011). Pathways to school completion: An international comparison. In S. Lamb, E. Markussen, R. Teese, N. Sandberg, & J. Polesel (Eds.), School dropout and completion. International comparative studies in theory and policy (pp. 21–73). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  42. Lamb, S., Jackson, J., & Rumberger, R. (2015). ISCY technical paper: Measuring 21st century skills in ISCY. Technical Report. Victoria University, Centre for International Research on Educational Systems, Melbourne, Victoria. Retrieved from
  43. Li, Y., Lerner, J. V., & Lerner, R. M. (2010). Personal and ecological assets and academic competence in early adolescence: The mediating role of school engagement. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 801–815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ma, X. (2003). Sense of belonging to school: Can schools make a difference? The Journal of Educational Research, 96(6), 340–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ma, X., & Willms, J. D. (2004). School disciplinary climate. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 50, 169–188.Google Scholar
  46. Maas, C., & Hox, J. (2005). Sufficient sample sizes for multilevel modeling. Methodology, 1(3), 86–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. MacLeod, J. (1987). Ain’t no makin’ it. Leveled aspirations in a low-income neighborhood. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  48. Marks, G. N. (2005). Cross-national differences and accounting for social class inequalities in education. International Sociology, 20(4), 483–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McLaren, P. (1993). Schooling as a ritual performance. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  50. McNeely, C. A., Nonnemaker, J. M., & Blum, R. W. (2002). Promoting school connectedness. Journal of School Health, 72, 138–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mehan, H. (1992). Understanding inequality in schools: The contribution of interpretive studies. Sociology of Education, 65(1), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Montt, G. (2012). Socioeconomic school composition effects on student outcomes. Doctoral dissertation, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN.Google Scholar
  53. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. (2006). Mplus user’s guide (version 4). Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  54. Niemi, P. (2016). Ohjaus ja oppilaiden urapohdinta. Turkulaisten peruskoulun päättöluokkalaisten ohjauskokemukset urapohdinnan selittäjinä [Counselling and students’ career thinking. Counselling experiences explaining career thinking of Turku Students finishing basic education]. Turku, Finland: University of Turku.Google Scholar
  55. OECD. (2002). Redefining territories. In The functional regions. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  56. OECD. (2010a). PISA 2009 results: Overcoming social background – Equity in learning opportunities and outcomes (Vol. II). Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  57. OECD. (2010b). PISA 2009 results: Executive summary. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  58. Pong, S., & Hao, L. (2007). Neighborhood and school factors in the school performance of immigrants’ children. International Migration Review, 41, 206–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Portes, A., & MacLeod, D. (1996). Educational progress of children of immigrants: The roles of class, ethnicity, and school context. Sociology of Education, 69, 255–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Räsänen, M., & Kivirauma, J. (2011). Oppilaana monikulttuurisessa koulussa [Students in a multicultural school]. In K. Klemelä, A. Tuittu, A. Virta, & R. Rinne (Eds.), Vieraina koulussa? Monikulttuurinen koulu oppilaiden, vanhempien, opettajien ja rehtoreiden kokemana [Strangers at school? Multicultural school as seen by students, parents, teachers, and principals] (pp. 35–95). University of Turku/Faculty of Education.Google Scholar
  61. Reay, D. (2000). A useful extension of Bourdieu’s conceptual framework? Emotional capital as a way of understanding mothers’ involvement in their children’s education. The Sociological Review, 48(4), 568–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rinne, R., Järvinen, T., Tikkanen, J., & Aro, M. (2015). Changes in education policies and the status of schools in Europe: The views of school principals from eight European countries. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 45(5), 764–788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Schnepf, S. V. (2007). Immigrants’ educational disadvantage. Journal of Population Economics, 20, 527–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Seppänen, P. (2003). Patterns of ‘public – School markets’ in the Finnish comprehensive school from a comparative perspective. Journal of Education Policy, 18(5), 513–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Seppänen, P. (2006). Kouluvalintapolitiikka perusopetuksessa. Suomalaiskaupunkien koulumarkkinat kansainvälisessä valossa [School choice policy in comprehensive schooling. School markets of Finnish cities in the international perspective]. Turku, Finland: Finnish Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  66. Simola, H., Kauko, J., Varjo, J., Kalalahti, M., & Sahlström, F. (2017). Dynamics in education politics. Understanding and explaining the Finnish case. London/New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sirin, S. R. (2005). Socioeconomic status and academic achievement: A meta-analytic review of research. Review of Educational Research, 75, 417–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Skinner, E. A., Furrer, C. J., Marchand, G., & Kindermann, T. A. (2008). Engagement and disaffection in the classroom: Part of larger motivational dynamic? Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 765–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tikkanen, J., Bledowski, P., & Felczak, J. (2015). Education systems as transition spaces. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 28(3), 297–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Vettenranta, J., Välijärvi, J., Ahonen, A., Hautamäki, J., Huttunen, J., Leino, K., et al. (2016). Huipulla pudotuksesta huolimatta. PISA 2015 ensituloksia [PISA 2015 First results]. Helsinki, Finland/Jyväskylä, Finland: The Ministry of Education and Culture/University of Jyväskylä/University of Helsinki.Google Scholar
  71. Virtanen, T. (2016). Student engagement in Finnish lower secondary school. Jyväskylä, Finland: University of Jyväskylä.Google Scholar
  72. Virtanen, T. E., Lerkkanen, M.-L., Poikkeus, A.-M., & Kuorelahti, M. (2015). The relationship between classroom quality and students’ engagement in secondary school. Educational Psychology, 35, 963–983.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Virtanen, T. E., Lerkkanen, M.-L., Poikkeus, A.-M., & Kuorelahti, M. (2016). Student behavioral engagement as a mediator between teacher, family, and peer support and school truancy. Learning and Individual Differences, 36, 201–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wang, M., & Eccles, J. S. (2013). School context, achievement motivation, and academic engagement: A longitudinal study of school engagement using a multidimensional perspective. Learning & Instruction, 28, 12–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Weiss, C. C., Carolan, B. V., & Baker-Smith, E. C. (2010). Big school, small school: (Re)testing assumptions about high school size, school engagement and mathematics achievement. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Willis, P. (1977). Learning to labour. Farnborough, UK: Saxon House.Google Scholar
  77. Willms, J. D. (2003). Student engagement at school. A sense of belonging and participation. Results from PISA 2000. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  78. Yoon, J., & Järvinen, T. (2016). Are model PISA pupils happy at school? Quality of school life of adolescents in Finland and Korea. Comparative Education, 52(4), 427–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education/Centre for Research on Lifelong Learning and EducationUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

Personalised recommendations