Spatial segregation and segregation in education

Ethnic segregation and educational segregation are frequently discussed terms when examining contemporary urban sociological literature. Anyone who is not familiar with urban sociological literature will be confronted with the necessary media attention on these topics after a day of work, while hanging on the couch. But what should and can we do with these terms? Should we learn to understand them in order to do nothing with them, or should we understand the terms and take action?

As introduction

Ethnic segregation and educational segregation are frequently discussed terms when examining contemporary urban sociological literature. Anyone who is not familiar with urban sociological literature will be confronted with the necessary media attention on these topics after a day of work, while hanging on the couch. But what should and can we do with these terms? Should we learn to understand them in order to do nothing with them, or should we understand the terms and take action?

Many people will say that integration, for example, is a positive goal for both immigrant Dutch people and Dutch society as a whole, but when one asks at what points one should integrate, the range of answers quickly comes to a halt when it comes to mastering the Dutch language. In short, what do we mean by ethnic segregation and segregation in education?

In this essay I try to concretize these terms. We will start with the possible connection between spatial segregation and educational segregation. I will also discuss the extent to which educational segregation has negative consequences. Finally, I will propose possible solutions regarding this phenomenon through an argument.

Spatial segregation and educational segregation

To clarify the possible connection between spatial segregation and educational segregation, we first need to know what is meant by these concepts. Given the spatial segregation within the city, we can assume a struggle for urban space. In his work Zorg en de Staat, De Swaan (1988) describes the urbanization process as a continuous absorption of immigrants. For the established citizens, the newcomers represented both an opportunity and a threat: they were useful as workers, profitable as customers, recruitable as political supporters and often ingenious entrepreneurs. At the time, the immigrants were also seen as a threat and as barbarians, savages, nomads for whom there was no place in the city. The old urban proletariat also feared competition on the labor market. The most widespread and ingrained attitude of the established city residents towards the newcomers was that they should disappear as quickly as possible. Because the new migrants could not be excluded or chased out of the city, they had to be housed in some way, in the hope that they would sooner or later adapt to city life. This increasingly resulted in the poor and migrants being segregated into segregated urban neighborhoods (De Swaan, 1988).

The above can be called the foundation of spatial segregation in Dutch cities and is once again confirmed by Komter, Burgers and Engbersen in the study The cement of society. The migrants who moved to the big cities were largely dependent on cheap houses. That is why they were not spread evenly across the city, but mainly ended up in old neighborhoods. (Komter et al, 2000: 19)

Spatial segregation has mainly been promoted by the housing policy of migrants. The then residents of the working-class neighborhoods in question who could afford to move to better parts of the city, left. This was called white flight, in the US this phenomenon is better known as the white flight. In the article School desegregation, Hochschild (2003) describes a similar outflow of residents, which further increases the concentration of migrants within a district or neighborhood.

When the population composition changes in a district or neighborhood, it is almost inevitable that this will influence several facets in a neighborhood. An input (migrants) also ensures a specific output (change within institutions).
It is not only the case that the percentage of migrants in the local supermarket will increase, the influx of migrants within education in such a neighborhood is also greater than in neighborhoods where the population composition is more varied.

Segregation in education is often referred to by the terms black and white schools. The predominantly black schools are generally located in or near a concentration neighborhood with migrants. We could conclude that spatial segregation is the basis for segregation in education. Karsten (2005) also adheres to this view in the article Black and white schools. In his study, Karsten mentions three important causes for the increasing concentration and segregation in education.

First of all, Karsten draws our attention to the fact that segregation in education is partly caused by demographic developments, and he mentions residential segregation as the most important point. This is partly due to the departing native and the arrived immigrant. Karsten also mentions the high number of children in immigrant families as one of the causes for an accelerated concentration process. Secondly, the socially and ethnically motivated school choices of parents are mentioned. He cites research by the SCO Kohnstamm Institute on School Choice in a Multi-ethnic Society from 2002. This made it clear that native Dutch people in particular find a black school less suitable for their child than a predominantly white school. Highly educated parents often choose education that is a strong match with the type of education provided. This study also showed that immigrant parents are less willing to travel long distances for education outside the neighborhood or region. As a third point, Karsten mentions the Dutch freedom of education, he points out that the establishment of Islamic and Hindu schools is allowed. He also sees that freedom as the cause of segregation in education.

In a paraphrase we could say that spatial segregation does influence segregation in education, but it should also be noted that not only spatial segregation is responsible for this. Attention must be paid to school choice motives and the Dutch freedom of education.

Negative Consequences of Educational Segregation

When education shows a strong form of segregation, this regularly triggers a dispersal reaction. Spreading is seen as positive and segregation as negative. When we talk about a multicultural society, which is discussed in Dutch politics, people should live together. Now this picture looks extremely attractive on paper, but in reality it works differently. The approach on a political level is as beautiful as it is paradoxical. On the one hand, an attempt is made to promote diversity in the areas of living, working and learning, while on the other hand, segregation is stimulated by own government regulations, such as having freedom of school choice and freedom of education. We can apply the saying ‘mopping with the tap open’ here.

The negative consequences of segregation in education are primary; self-chosen segregation through the establishment of Islamic, Reformed and other schools that focus on minority groups in Dutch society (Karsten, 2005). The quality and average level of education differs from school to school due to segregation in education. For example, the 2002 study School Choice in a Multi-ethnic Society revealed that students from lower backgrounds are the most sensitive to the differences in the quality of the learning environment at school. According to the research, they benefit from a strong learning environment, because they have to get almost everything out of school for their development.

A secondary , but no less important consequence of segregation in education is one that will influence Dutch society in the longer term. The freedom of school choice largely ensures the ambiguous black-white separation between black and white schools. A school with little ethnic and cultural variation is not the ideal preparation for the multicultural society where one will later end up as an individual. Anyone who has not worked, spoken and played with different people in his or her youth will have a harder time later in a varied company than a person who has been able to work with different ethnic and cultural groups in his or her youth. In fact, it can be said that in this way one cannot even speak of a multicultural society, because there is no multicultural coexistence. It can thus be suggested that segregation within education offers freedom of choice in a positive sense and, in a negative sense, turns the Netherlands into a sea with islands of ethnically culturally different groups where each island knows about the existence of the other island, but has never been there. .


When we compare segregation in education in the Netherlands with the situation in the US, we should in principle not complain. In the US, the level of education achieved is mainly dependent on the amount of financial capital that people possess. This, for us, old-fashioned state of affairs is a thing of the past, partly thanks to the opportunity for equal education (meritocratization). Education in the US is not regulated by a central government, but is largely subsidized by local taxes. As a result, various aspects of education such as; opportunities, quality and freedom differ from state to state, but also from region to region within such a state. However, in the Netherlands, education is financed and subsidized by a central government.

Despite the pursuit of equal opportunities and high quality in every form of education, inequality still prevails. We could fit a random Sociology student with the complete outfit of the Dutch football team, but that does not mean that he or she will score the winning goal during a final. In other words; the Dutch government can ensure equal opportunities, equal quality and good quality and equivalent material, then it is still up to the user how to deal with it. While a football player needs the necessary training and talent, a student has to deal with the family composition, living environment and a form of intelligence that fits within the requirements of our educational system.

Within a social democratic society, segregation in education is a fact. The freedom of choice in a society that can be called capitalist is not only limited to having the freedom to choose a school, but also to which (sub)cultural group a person wants to belong. The associated products such as clothing, music and food can also be chosen with complete freedom. In a society where people can and must always make choices, it is difficult to prohibit or restrict that freedom of choice. Due to the continued freedom of choice and freedom of education, segregation in education continues to exist.

Spatial segregation can be countered to a large extent, which can influence a reduction in segregation in education. It is just a utopia to think that distribution can be achieved everywhere in the Netherlands. Wealthy Dutch people will then again look for other accommodation. Where Americans can realize more educational opportunities through their financial capital, it is the Dutch who can convert their financial capital into housing opportunities. This does not mean that financial capital no longer matters in the Netherlands, there are also private schools in the Netherlands, such as the Luzac College. We also see a rise in new semi-private ideological forms of education, which try to attune themselves to the increasingly individualistic society, an example of this is Elkewijs education (de Haan, 2007).

Freedom goes hand in hand with segregation, in a spatial sense but also in the field of education. Segregation can be countered, but then social democratic society and liberalism will have to be replaced by socialism. Then there may be less freedom of choice, but a less differentiated form of segregation. As the situation now appears, it is good to limit segregation within education, so that children come into contact with the multicultural society from compulsory school age, making it easy for the student who has become an employee to participate later. in a multicultural organization or company. This will most likely benefit developments in the labor market and the economy.