The impact of school experiences on students’ sense of justice: an international study of student voice

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This paper presents some of the findings from a survey of 13,000 15-year old pupils in five European countries. The young people were faced with a number of realistic situations in the form of vignettes, intended to elicit the principles of justice to be applied in different domains, and also asked more directly about fairness both within and beyond school, and their family and educational experiences. The pupils’ background, the nature and intake to their schools, and their reported experiences at school, are here used in regression models to try and help explain how pupils learn to trust others, to allow extra assistance for the most disadvantaged, and what they aspire to in later life. The findings are somewhat different for each outcome, but in general pupil background plays a role. More importantly for policy perhaps, there is a small peer effect. Most importantly, pupils’ experiences at school are the key to explaining most of the observed variation. In general, those treated with respect by other pupils and teachers were more likely to report trusting others, being prepared to help others, and confidence in their futures. In a sense these findings are predictable, but their practical implications, if accepted, would be considerable.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-105
Number of pages19
JournalOrbis Scholae
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2008