DO PUPILS ATTEND THE NEAREST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TO THEIR HOMES? FACTORS IN SCHOOL CHOICE IN THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT OF LIBEREC, CZECHIA
Traditionally, the spatial organization of elementary education was based on the concept of school catchment districts. Uneven regional development and population changes contributed to the destabilization of some regional education systems and led to the modification of catchment area boundaries. In the West, the neo-liberal policies of the 1980s led to the decentralization of school systems, allowed schools to focus on specific subjects, and gave parents the possibility to choose schools based on criteria other than school catchment area.
The aim of this paper is to discuss the importance of factors influencing elementary school choice in an urban environment, using the Czech city of Liberec as an example. We will attempt to answer the following research questions: What percentage of pupils from a given catchment area is enrolled at the elementary school closest to their place of residence? What factors influence school choice? How do school choice–related motives differ based on the socioeconomic characteristics of specific areas in an urban space?
This study combines GIS spatial modeling methods with questionnaire surveys conducted in selected schools. The results demonstrate that in choosing schools parents base their decisions on many factors. School location is still one of the most important, even though Czech pupils are no longer required to attend their district school. In our study, attendance of the closest elementary school is influenced by the school's macro-location within the city, that is, mainly by the location of each school in relation to the center and outlying areas of the city.