OECD Reviews of Migrant Education

2077-6829 (online)
2077-6802 (print)
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This series of reviews, some on specific countries and some on specific issues related to migrant education, examine best practices and make recommendations.

Also available in French
Closing the Gap for Immigrant Students

Closing the Gap for Immigrant Students

Policies, Practice and Performance You do not have access to this content

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24 Mar 2010
9789264075788 (PDF) ;9789264075771(print)

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OECD has conducted policy reviews of migrant education in Austria, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden and has examined the migrant education experience in many countries. This book offers comparative data on access, participation and performance of immigrant students and their native peers and identifies a set of policy options based on solid evidence of what works.
Also available in French
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  • Foreword
    This publication is intended to be a quick reference guide for policy makers in the process of policy design and implementation in different settings for immigrant students. It presents facts, policy issues, good practices and lessons learned about the education of immigrant students.
  • Executive Summary
    Net migration to OECD countries has tripled since 1960. Today, immigrant students comprise 10 to 20% of the student population in many OECD countries. Some countries have long histories of immigration; others have experienced an unprecedented increase in the last decade. Immigration is a local phenomenon, and there are large variations in the geographic distribution of immigrant students; however, teaching immigrant students is becoming an important part of the reality facing teachers every day.
  • Introduction
    Net migration to OECD countries has tripled since 1960. As an immediate policy challenge, the integration of immigrants into labour markets has become a high priority and a research topic. However, very little research has focused on the integration of immigrant children into school. The OECD policy review of migrant education was launched to compare education outcomes of immigrant students to those of their native peers and, where gaps exist, to determine what actions policy makers could take to close the gaps. This introduction provides an overview of the project and introduces cross-cutting policy issues. It first explains why the OECD launched the policy review of migrant education. It then introduces eight government tools that are often in use for steering migrant education policy. They are: 1) setting explicit policy goals for immigrant students within broader education policy goals; 2) setting regulations and legislation; 3) designing effective funding strategies; 4) establishing standards, qualifications and qualifications framework; 5) establishing curricula, guidelines and pedagogy; 6) building capacity (especially training and teacher support); 7) raising awareness, communication and dissemination; and 8) monitoring, research, evaluation and feedback. It also presents the key cross-cutting, general messages, which will set the scene for Chapters 2, 3 and 4. The messages highlight: the importance of paying attention to "heterogeneity" among immigrant students; the significance of a holistic approach and shared responsibility at all levels and among all key stakeholders; and the challenge of finding the right balance between universal measures for all students and targeted measures for immigrant students.
  • Key challenges and opportunities
    The size and the composition of the immigrant share of the student population in schools is changing; this poses challenges to education systems as they strive to meet the learning needs of immigrant students. This chapter identifies key challenges and opportunities for immigrant students. It first describes history and identifies economic factors affecting migrant education policy. It then presents facts about education outcomes of immigrant students, identifies factors that may help explain the gaps, and suggests policy implications. On average, immigrant students face greater difficulties in education than their native peers. Their performance in reading, science and mathematics in compulsory education is comparatively lower than that of their native peers. In some countries immigrant students (first-generation) are less likely to attend early childhood education and care institutions and more likely to repeat a grade, attend vocational schools and drop out from secondary education. They have more limited access to quality education. They are more likely to attend schools that are located in big cities that serve students who are on average from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds and usually also immigrant students. The performance gap between immigrants and native students is largely explained in most countries by parents’ occupations and educational background and the language spoken at home. Other factors associated with better educational performance for immigrant students include: educational resources at home, early home reading activities, attending early childhood education and care institutions, a more advantaged school average socio-economic composition, more hours for learning language at school, and school accountability measures (i.e. informing parents of student performance and the use of performance data).
  • School level policies
    The country reviews have shown that to close the achievement gap between native and immigrant students, it is not enough to develop policies and curricular adaptations at the national level. Institutional changes must be made within every school, including changes in school leadership, teaching methodologies and school-home co-operation. This chapter focuses on policies and practices at the school level that can help school leaders and teachers respond to the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity of their students. The first section of this chapter is dedicated to promising language support policies and practices. Proficiency in the language of instruction is a major tool and precondition for learning. But second language development is only one aspect of responding to diversity in the practice and planning of the school. The second section, on teaching and learning environments, suggests that a whole-school approach is needed to ensure that support for immigrant students is provided not only in specialised courses but in an integrated way across the curriculum and throughout all school- and after-school activities. Finally, the third section points to the importance of developing new ways of communication and collaboration to support parental and community involvement in schools with a diverse student intake. Taken together, these three approaches can help establish a positive school and classroom climate that treats diversity as a resource rather than an obstacle for successful teaching and learning.
  • System level policies
    This chapter focuses on policies and practices to ensure coherent provision of migrant education throughout the education system. The country reviews have revealed many examples of promising practices at different levels of education. The challenges ahead will be to learn from these practices and to implement them on a wider scale. Of critical importance are political leadership, adequate resources and incentives, knowledge management and clear policies informed by a strong evidence base. The first section of this chapter is dedicated to promising policies and practices in the area of managing variations and concentration. Ensuring equal opportunities for all immigrant students – regardless of which school they attend – is of critical importance. The second section, on funding strategy, presents approaches to managing inequities through targeted funding to disadvantaged areas, schools or particular student groups after careful consideration of educational priorities. Finally, the third section underlines the importance of monitoring and evaluation in ensuring the quality of migrant education. This includes improving the quality of data on outcomes and effective policies as well as training practitioners to effectively exploit this information. In combination, these three areas play a key role in managing the system to provide high quality education to immigrant students.
  • Annex 1
    The Thematic Review of Migrant Education was launched in January 2008. The Group of National Experts was set up as a subsidiary body of the Education Policy Committee to guide the methods, timing and principles of the thematic review as well as to share information and experience on the theme and to keep in touch with the emerging findings of the exercise.
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