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Social trust in education is at least partly rooted in the legitimacy of the principal institutions which organise the social order, such as the political system, democracy and economy. Easton formulated the theoretical justification for this hypothesis in the 1960s, while empirical confirmation was delayed until the first decade of this century, when the data was collected in the European Social Survey. The results of ESS confirmed the hypothesis that trust in education is influenced by the legitimacy of the more fundamental state institutions but the mechanisms of this effect vary across Europe. In countries where schools are autonomous and control over them is located at community level, trust in education becomes independent from social support for the state. However, in countries where education is considered to be a government agency, strongly shaped by political goals, people tend to evaluate education together with other state institutions. The ESS data also provide insight into factors determining trust in education at the level of the individual. Surprisingly, the lowest degree of trust was shown by the upper classes, including the educated, whom the education system had benefited most. This is not conducive to the involvement of such people in countries that are building their educational resources.

Zbigniew Sawiński, Educational Research Institute

 

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