Methodological Principles and Practice
In Which Social Context Will Working-Class Students Obtain an Academic Qualification?
In France, as in other countries, there are basically two view points about how to democratize higher education. The first suggests that more working-class children would be successful in their university studies if they were encouraged to aim for the highest standards – that is, to leave home; to integrate in student life and to learn how to be a student; to ‘leave’ their primary habitus, in this context, if it is considered as a ‘handicap’ (Bourdieu and Passeron 1970; Coulon 1997). The second view suggests adapting higher education to fit the working-class primary habitus through proposing short technical courses, small classes, proximity sites, interactive teaching methods. In short, creating an organization that allows the working-class children to engage in higher education studies without leaving their primary class habitus, so considered as a possible resource (Retière 2003; Renahy 2010; Poullaouec 2010).
However, there are different ways of considering success in higher education. Tristan Poullaouec (Poullaouec 2010) points out that working-class children who obtain any qualification belong to a sort of elite relative to their social environment. Following this point of view, we will consider that working-class children who obtain any qualification, even if it is the lowest one, have already succeeded in their studies. In contrast, those who stay at university for one or more years without obtaining any diploma will be considered as having failed their university studies. So in our analyses the main distinction is between those students who do not...