Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to Analyze Possible Relations between School Choice and Segregation (Civil Project)

In 1992, the Swedish education system was reformed and by that, school choice was introduced. The intention of the reform was that competition between schools would improve the level of education; however, the results among Swedish pupils have deteriorated and the differences between schools have increased since the introduction. This has caused much debate on school choice, and especially school choice in relation to socioeconomic background and segregation.

This study examines whether GIS can be used to detect possible relations between the school choices, socioeconomic backgrounds and residential areas of pupils in Uppsala Municipality in Sweden. Most of the previously conducted research do not use GIS as a tool, despite the spatial aspect of this issue. By mapping the data, any geographical patterns can easier be detected, patterns which can be hard to observe in other data presentation methods such as tables or graphs.

The school choices and the commuting pattern among pupils applying for preschool or year six have been visualized in relation to the social index of their corresponding living areas. Four areas and four schools have been selected as samples in order to evaluate the issue from the perspective of both the pupils and the schools.

The results show that GIS is an effective way of presenting complex data and a useful tool for detecting geographical clusters. The differences in choices made by pupils of dissimilar social background can be visually detected by comparing the maps to each other. The preschool pupils tend to apply for the nearest schools, while some of the pupils applying for year six are willing to travel further distances in order to get to a more popular school or an area less socially vulnerable than their residential area.

Furthermore, some deviant school choice patterns can easily be explained by examining the surrounding environment; the map can reveal for instance that the pupils had no other choice to make, that geographical obstructions such as water bodies or large streets act like separators or that the social index of a residential area perhaps do not match the affiliation felt by the inhabitants.

Due to the complexity of school choice and segregation, a GIS might not be used alone for concluding on a relation between the two. However, it is a very useful tool for indicating occurrences of the phenomena and, most important, highlighting areas that are interesting for further investigation.
Source: KTH
Authors: Hals, Carine

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