“Social diversity should not stop at the school gates”

This article appears in “Le Monde de l’Éducation”. If you are subscribed to Worldyou can subscribe to this weekly letter by following this link.

At the end of October, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced a series of social measures for working-cl neighborhoods. These measures are part of the context of the angry demonstrations in the summer of 2023, which hit many cities following the broadcast of a video showing the police arrest leading to the death of Nahel M.. head of government notably placed the issue of the fight against residential segregation on the political agenda, affirming that “All difficulties should not be gathered in one place. Diversity is an opportunity. It is necessary ».

If the fight against residential segregation appears relatively consensual, the project of a less socially segregated school is giving rise to lively controversies in a public debate which has until now taken little account of the knowledge produced by the social sciences on that question. In the frame reflections launched by the former Minister of National Education Pap Ndiayewe produced a note for the Institute of Public Policies, in which we synthesize the contributions of the most recent research in economics on the effects of social diversity in schools.

This work reveals, first of all, that the effects of social diversity and the academic level of peers at school go well beyond the effects observed in the short term on individual academic performance. Recent literature suggests that social diversity affects the well-being of students, regardless of their social background: students exposed to peers from more varied social origins have denser and more socially diverse friendship networks. and are more confident about their academic level and their ability to progress.

Growing social divide between public and private

This research also shows that social diversity constitutes a source of personal enrichment for students, by promoting their socio-emotional development (altruism, degree of preference for fairness and sharing) and by reducing the prevalence of social and racial stereotypes. . Finally, certain studies highlight beneficial effects on the pursuit of higher education and integration into the labor market, particularly for students from disadvantaged social backgrounds. These findings argue in favor of more systematic consideration of these long-term effects in the debate around social diversity at school.

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