European schools do not support immigrants

A new study by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) shows that immigrant children throughout Europe are lagging behind. This goes for both first generation immigrants and second generation - kids who were born and grew up in their host country.

The report shows that more than a third of second-generation immigrant children in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway and the United States, who have spent their entire schooling in the host country, perform below the baseline PISA benchmark for mathematics performance at which students begin to demonstrate the kind of skills that enable them to actively use mathematics. In all other OECD countries except Australia and Canada, at least 20% of second-generation immigrant children fall below this level.

And yet, at the same time, immigrant children express equal, if not more, motivation to learn mathematics than their native counterparts and very positive general attitudes towards school, suggesting that they bring with them a strong potential on which schools can build more effectively.

School systems differ widely in terms of their outcomes for immigrant children, the report makes clear. In some countries, such as Canada and Australia, immigrant children perform as well as their native counterparts. But in other countries, notably those with highly tracked education systems, they do substantially less well. Indeed, in many countries, the odds are weighted against students from immigrant families right from the start. They tend to be directed to schools with lower performance expectations, often characterised by disadvantaged student intakes and, in some countries, disruptive class-room conditions. In all but four countries under review, at least 25% of second-generation immigrant children attend schools where immigrants make up more than 50% of the roll-call. By comparison, this is the case for less than 5% of native children in all but two countries.

Language and the geographical origin of immigrant children may be additional factors, the report notes. But this is not sufficient to explain variations in performance between countries. Immigrant students whose families have come from Turkey tend to perform poorly in many countries. But they do significantly worse in Germany than they do in Switzerland.

Furthermore, in a number of countries, second-generation immigrant children still perform as badly as their first-generation counterparts. On the other hand, in some countries with high levels of immigration, the performance of second-generation immigrant children is much closer to that of native children and close to the national average, suggesting that public policy can make a difference. Many of the countries that do well on this measure have in common well-established language support programmes in early childhood education and primary school that have clearly defined goals, standards and evaluation systems.

The report can be accessed here (PDF file)

Politicians across Europe called for education reform following the report.

In Germany Head of the opposition Green Party Claudia Roth called the study results a "shame for Germany," and told the Cologne paper K├Âlner Stadt-Anzeiger that it was "shocking that the children of immigrants in our country have such terrible education opportunities."

In Belgium the Flemish Minister of Education called the report results "morally unacceptable".

This follows a report by Dutch newspaper NRC a couple of days ago saying that immigrant youths tend to go into the "wrong" professions, choosing administration over technical skills in fields where there is more work available. The conclusion of this report actually contradicts the OECD one and claims that immigrant students should actually be sent into less educated fields (constructions, metalwork), where work is more plentiful.

Source: OECD (English)


nouille said...

Don't parents have a responsibility in their childrens education too?

Can this really be only the Schools fault?

In the states, immigrant children from Hispanic families often don't hear or speak english until their first day of school.

Surely this can't help them.

I don't think it's our duty to "support immigrants".

This is a huge drain on resources and time, and quite unfair to other children.

Esther said...

It's not the schools, it's the gov't. Parents do have a responsibility, but if a kid comes to a country and doesn't know the language, and neither do his parents, that's a problem. The big question is why there's a lag on the 2nd generation.

What the OECD is saying (according to news reports, it's a 200+ report) is that a country should put more into schooling, as otherwise they'll have to put the same money into dealing with these immigrants later when they don't have schooling, job or language skills.

Europe can stop immigration now if it wants to, but it will still have to deal with the current 2nd generation (3rd etc).

It seems like an interesting report, so I'll try to read it through.

MSandt said...

No wonder homogenous countries like Finland (that's where I live), Japan and South-Korea do so well in (public) education (at least according to PISA) - these countries have very little immigrants.