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Increasing understanding of the aspirations and expectations of Roma students

Želinský, T. and Gorard, S. and Siddiqui, N. and , (2021) 'Increasing understanding of the aspirations and expectations of Roma students.', British Journal of Sociology of Education, 42 (4). pp. 588-606.


Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe, and despite the efforts of national governments and international institutions in many countries, the majority still live below the poverty line. It is estimated that only approximately 20 per cent of adult European Roma have attained higher than primary education, and Roma children are five times less likely to attend compulsory primary education compared to the majority populations. Scholars have identified different potential causes of the unfavourable school outcomes achieved by Roma students, and in the present study, we focus primarily on cultural explanations. According to numerous scholars, acquiring knowledge in Roma families differs from others in the mainstream schooling system. Cultural differences between the (traditional) way of life in Roma families and the values professed by the mainstream society are often blamed for high dropout rates and the low educational attainment of Roma youth. Yet there is also a group of researchers who disagree with this, and suggest that the weaker school outcomes are more to do with economic and other differences. Unlike previous studies on this topic, we do not base our results on direct questions to respondents which may be subject to a high level of social desirability bias. Instead, we focus on questions indirectly related to cultural differences, and assess them with respect to parents’ educational aspirations for children. Our empirical study is based on a large representative sample of the UNDP/WB/EC Regional Roma Survey conducted in twelve European countries. We show that, on average, Roma respondents (in comparison to non-Roma) express remarkably lower levels of educational aspirations for their children. However, these differences diminish considerably when controlling for common individual and household characteristics, and again when including culture proxies. Consequently, our study contributes to questioning one of the negative stereotypes about the distinctiveness of Roma and their culture in relation to education.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 29 March 2023.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in British Journal of Sociology of Education on 29 September 2021, available online: It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:05 December 2020
Date deposited:01 March 2021
Date of first online publication:29 September 2021
Date first made open access:29 March 2023

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