School organization and market ecology: A realist sociological look at the infrastructure of school choice

Gad Yair*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Programs of school choice are based largely on the idea of a 'free market'. Recent reform efforts have been based on the assumption that market-driven educational systems would bring higher achievement levels and greater satisfaction among clients. According to popular views, parents would shop for a school just as they do for any other commodity and competition between schools would ensue, with each school trying to improve itself thereby attracting consumers. There is a major drawback to this reasoning. Markets are rarely completely free from regulation and control, and the desires of individuals do not fully explain the social facts of school choice. As a complement to current school choice studies, a structural explanation of school choice within the theory of network analysis is presented. The study analyses choice in terms of inter-school student transfers and explains choice as the combined result of two factors. The first is the organization of student mobility in schools, in terms of vacant positions (timing and volume) and student body composition, which posits nine ideal types of school organization. The second factor is the ecology of the market, given in the number of schools in each type. Research conducted in a large city in Israel serves as an example for the approach. The more general implications of the study suggest directions for the theoretical refinement of mobility and attainment studies in sociology.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)453-471
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
In order to contextualize the findings, this section describes some unique features of the Israeli educational system. Education in Israel is largely public, and is financed and run by the Ministry of Education. Parents pay little tuition and are allowed minimal involvement in curricular and teaching issues. Schools for fringe ultra-orthodox religious groups may bear similarities to private schools in other countries, but even these schools are not financed by parents. The State of Israel is the provider of education for almost everyone. Unlike the 'voucher' proposals, the phrase 'school choice' in Israel does not connote parents' financial power over schools.


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