The transition from primary to secondary education: meritocracy and ethnicity

Geert Driessen, Peter Sleegers, Frederik Smit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to better understand the influence of pupil background characteristics (e.g. gender, SES, ethnicity), various cognitive, and non-cognitive competencies (e.g. school performance, study attitude) and a number of class and school characteristics (e.g. socio-ethnic class composition, degree of urbanization) on the transition of children from primary to secondary education in the Netherlands. In the final grade of Dutch primary school, pupils are advised with regard to the type of secondary education considered most appropriate for them. Recent data from the national large-scale PRIMA cohort study, which includes more than 8,000 pupils and 500 classes, were used to examine differences in the levels of recommendation provided. The results showed the phenomenon of over-recommending or, in other words, groups of pupils receiving an educational recommendation, which is higher than justified by their school performance, to no longer exist. Pupil achievement appeared to be the most important factor for the explanation of the level of recommendation, which clearly provides support for the meritocratic principle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-542
JournalEuropean sociological review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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