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Education is key to the inclusion of immigrant students – OECD

Immigrant students are struggling to integrate into schools in many EU member states due to lower socio-economic status and language barriers, a report by the OECD has revealed. The report also found that students with an immigrant background often lack a sense of belonging to their school community and are more likely to be affected by schoolwork-related anxiety.

The study is based on data from the 2015 PISA survey, which looked at the performance of 15-year-olds across maths, reading and science. The PISA is taken by students across all 34 OECD member states, as well as many partner nations such as Russia and Brazil.

In the OECD report, students with an immigrant background are defined as those students who are either foreign-born or who have at least one foreign-born parent.

It revealed that academic underperformance is common to most students with an immigrant background, but particularly first-generation immigrant students.

Globally, as many as 51% of first-generation immigrant students failed to reach baseline levels of academic proficiency in reading, mathematics and science in 2015, compared to 28% of students without an immigrant background.

Immigrant students were also revealed to be “at least twice as likely” as native students to fail to achieve baseline levels of academic proficiency in [several European nations, as well as Japan?]   Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Switzerland.

By contrast, immigrant students in Australia, Canada and Hungary were just as likely as native students to fail to achieve baseline academic proficiency.

One qualifier, however, is the language spoken by students at home. In countries such as Germany, students with an immigrant background who do not speak the language of instruction at home score around 16 points fewer compared to native students (once maths scores and socio-economic circumstance are accounted for). However, those who do speak German at home score almost identically to international students.

However in France, Iceland, and Spain, immigrant students were considerably less likely than native students to report being satisfied with their life, and in Austria, Finland, Luxembourg and Switzerland, they were considerably more likely than native students to report high levels of schoolwork-related anxiety.

Results revealed that in countries such as the Czech Republic, Estonia, China, Ireland, Macao and the UK, many immigrant students who achieve baseline levels of academic proficiency suffer low life satisfaction, a weak sense of belonging or both.

By contrast, in Austria, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands and Spain, immigrant students who achieve baseline academic proficiency were also more likely to report high satisfaction with life and a strong sense of belonging or both.

Commenting on the report, European commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics said Brussels strives to provide everyone in Europe with real opportunities.

“This report shows that we are on the right track when promoting active citizenship, common values and high quality, inclusive education,” he said.

Navracsics said the report showed the inequality that the EU bodies will try to combat with the newly announced European Education Area.

“This is why our first package of measures to build a European Education Area… included a proposal on promoting inclusive education and common values. I will shortly present a second package of initiatives including proposals to promote quality in early childhood education and care and in language learning.

“All these initiatives can help pupils and students overcome disadvantages linked to an immigrant background.”