06 Dec 18 | News

How does the achievement gap between immigrant and native-born pupils progress from primary to secondary education?

The paper1,2 documents the change in educational achievement differences between native and foreign background students between the ages of 10 and 15, as they progress from primary to secondary education. It examines three cohorts of students in a number of Western European and traditional English-speaking immigration countries using combinations of PIRLS, TIMSS and PISA survey data.

The inflow of migrants over the last decade is rapidly changing classroom compositions in many host countries of Europe, as well as in traditional Englishspeaking immigration countries. Between 2006 and 2015, the share of 15 years old with a migratory background grew steadily in all OECD countries.

In particular, second-generation immigrant students accounted for most of these changes in Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, New Zealand and the US.

Immigrant children in Europe are up to three times more at risk of living in a poor household than their native counterparts, even among those living with highly educated parents. In many OECD countries, these children are also less likely to attend early childhood (pre-school) programs despite robust evidence of their benefits on future educational outcomes. Moreover, many immigrant children grow up without speaking the host country language at home, another critical factor of academic success.

To the best of our knowledge, very little is known about the academic progress of immigrant children. This question is particularly relevant given that, over the last decades, many European countries committed significant resources to address the educational needs of economically vulnerable children including foreign background students.

Our study attempts to shed further light on this question by documenting the change in academic disparities between native and immigrant children between the ages of 10 and 15 using data for twelve Western European countries and three traditional immigration countries. Our findings reveal, among other things, comparable academic trajectories between immigrant children and their native peers in traditional immigration countries in both reading and mathematics. By contrast, immigrant children in Europe generally exhibit substantially larger achievement gaps in primary school, which only narrows down over time in reading.

Department ‘Living Conditions’

1 This research is part of the ‘The Persistence of Social and Ethnic Disadvantages in Primary and Secondary Schools’ (PERSIST) project
developed by LISER and funded by the ‘Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg’ (grant CORE 2012 C12/SC/3943127).

2 How does the achievement gap between immigrant and native-born pupils progress from primary to secondary education? Aigul Alieva , Vincent A.
Hildebrand, Philippe van Kerm, LISER, 2018, Working Papers n°2018-20, 52p.