EU: Ethnic diversity at school has a negative effect on learning

EU: Ethnic diversity at school has a negative effect on learning

Fifteen-year-old pupils from schools with high ethnic diversity perform worse than comparable pupils from schools with homogenous student populations. This applies not just to the immigrant children, but also to the pupils from the country in question. For the latter group, the negative effect is strongest in school systems with a hierarchy of school types, such as the Dutch and German systems. What’s more, the number and origin of the immigrant pupils also plays an important role. Having a higher proportion of pupils from Islamic countries at a given school negatively influences the performance of all pupils at that school. But in contrast, a higher share of pupils from South and East Asia has a positive effect. This is just one of Jaap Dronkers’s conclusions from his empirical research using international PISA data, which he discusses in his inaugural lecture.

This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog -

The educational performance of immigrant pupils gets a boost from having a higher proportion of such pupils at a particular school – but only when the fellow immigrant pupils come from the same region. This applies particularly to immigrant children from Islamic countries and from South and East Asia. This positive effect of ethnic homogeneity in schools might explain the attraction of Islamic schools, for example, or white or Jewish schools. Dronkers discusses such issues on Thursday 17 June in his inaugural lecture, ‘The positive but also negative effects of ethnic diversity in schools on educational performance’. With this lecture, he accepts the professorship in ‘International comparative research on educational performance and social inequality’ at Maastricht University's Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).

“I’m a sociologist who studies education”, says Dronkers. “The core of my work revolves around the study of education and inequality. In the first instance, I’m an empiricist. I don’t find things – I calculate them. My role is to quantify people’s assumptions and suppositions about how things are. So when someone says that migrant children lag behind in education as a result of the bad environment that they come from, then I say: I’d like to calculate that. And then the outcome shows that pupils from Islamic countries perform worse than other comparable immigrant pupils. This can’t be attributed to their socioeconomic background, or the school characteristics or education system. In other words, the constant harping about the socioeconomic deficit or the characteristics of schools or education systems has no empirical basis.


Source: Maastricht University (English), h/t NRP

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