The study examines the school to work transition at two Japanese vocationally oriented senior
high schools. It focuses on the process of differentiation among non-university bound students making
employment-related decisions and obtaining jobs. The ethnographic data collected over one year show
that these students create their own trajectories by activating school-based and family-based resources.
The thesis argues that the variation within the modal trajectory of this group is due to different
perceptions and uses of different categories of these available resources. School resources are
extensively made available to all students; they take the form of educational, social, symbolic and
cultural resources provided under the job referral practice, which offers a wide-range of employment related activities and information based on the schools' accumulated data about companies and their
Differences in the use of school resources in the transition process can be observed at three
levels. Firstly, available resources exist in an "objective" sense both in the family and at school.
Secondly, habitus generates a selective perception of the available resources, and some students do not
perceive that the resources will help them. Thirdly, habitus activates the resources in a particular way: based on their perceptions, students adjust their wishes to what they see as probable, and some
consequently conduct "self-elimination" from seeking positions which they consider they cannot obtain.
In this process influential people around students, both in the family and at school, can provide
directed resources for immediate personal use; they can intervene in the students' perception and
activation of resources and consequently can have an important impact on the final outcome. As a
product of one's past experiences and material conditions, habitus acts as a carrier of social inequality and contributes to the reproduction of that inequality. Only school-based resources has any potential to counterbalance the trend towards reproduction in the transition process.
The thesis argues that students who hold positive family resources, like the elites in
Bourdieu's study, try to convert these resources into a job. which will in turn generate positive social
and economic resources. Students without positive family resources, or those with negative family
resources have to adopt a different strategy: namely, to convert a combination of the school-based
resources into a job for their "life-after-school" by appropriating shared resources for their own
individual, private use. For these students, the school-based resource substitutes for family resources.
Hence, although the major differentiation takes place across institutions at the age of 16, the highly
organised job referral practice at vocationally oriented high schools, rather than the school system as a whole, softens the determinism of reproduction within the non-elite school and job hierarchy. The
practice provides an insight into the way the determining relationship between family background and
job placement can be loosened. The extensive provision of school-based resources illuminates the
process of, and extends the possibilities for, utilising school resources for obtaining jobs.