To understand the causes of the segregation of schools it is necessary to explore the interaction of different dimensions that generate inequalities in education. Some of the causes of segregation are internal to the education system, while others are external, and, in order to be handled, require political action beyond education policy.
Residential segregation, high levels of poverty in specific neighbourhoods, and migration waves are important factors that lead to school segregation, which can only be addressed by developing integrated actions based on education reforms, urban development policies (planning and housing strategies), social policies and cultural actions to facilitate social integration.
However, other causes of school segregation may be identified in the characteristics of education systems, or in specific education policies that may favour polarization and an unbalanced distribution of underprivileged or highly privileged students in schools. Early tracking, the presence of a large number of private schools, and the capacity of schools to select their students are aspects that correlate with levels of school segregation (Alegre and Ferrer, 2010). Patterns of school choice, the definition of catchment areas, levels of shared responsibilities to enrol students at risk and inspection systems to avoid illegal student selection, are factors that can be decisive in understanding how school segregation is produced and reproduced.
Factors affecting school segregation differ largely accordingly to different contexts. In contemporary cities, the interaction between external and internal factors produces unique scenarios of school segregation, which produce inequalities of a different nature and intensity.

Objectives of the module: This module aims to provide information and discussions on the wide causes of school segregation, both internal to the education system (school choice systems, school admission policies, tracking systems and the implementation of educational markets) as well as external to the mentioned system (residential segregation).

Outline of the module: This module is structured in five units, all related to the mentioned objectives.

Unit 3.1. Residential segregation and school segregation. In this section we will explore the relationship between these two forms of segregation. Residential segregation affects school segregation as much as school segregation impacts on families’ residential patterns and choices, especially among the middle class.

Unit 3.2. School choice. In this section we will explore the implications of regulations that allow families to make individual choices about which educational institution their child will attend.

Unit 3.3. School admission policies. These policies determine the prioritization criteria, sits reservation for students with special needs and ultimately who is offered a place in a specific school or program. The more choice parents and students have, the more marked is the role of admissions criteria in defining school segregation.

Unit 3.4. Education market. Market-oriented policies have often been promoted by public-private partnership. They include voucher programs, school choice, privatization, cost-recovering mechanisms, and the promotion of competition among schools. Supporters affirm that the introduction of some of those market mechanisms to education increase the effectiveness and efficiency of schools; in contrast, detractors argue that market dynamics damage public schools and increase inequity in education.

Unit 3.5. Early tracking. Tracking is the grouping of students into classes by ability/prior achievements and organizing curriculum by its level of difficulty. A major concern is that early tracking may segregate students on the basis of family background and/or academic ability.