1996-3777 (online)
1990-8539 (print)
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A series of reports on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA) periodic testing program on student performance. The reports generally compare student (15 year olds) academic performance across countries, or discuss the methodology used to gather the data.

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Untapped Skills

Untapped Skills

Realising the Potential of Immigrant Students You or your institution have access to this content

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16 July 2012
9789264172470 (PDF) ;9789264172296(print)

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This report reviews recent trends in international migration, describing the size of current foreign-born populations across countries and analysing factors associated to the size and nature of these populations, reviews a set of important differences and similarities across educational systems and gives a brief description of population sizes across countries.

It also provides an overview of the evidence emerging from PISA 2009 on the performance and socio-economic background of children of immigrants. Who are the children of immigrants? What do they know and what can they do? How do they differ from other students? Do they approach school and learning in a different way? It examines more closely the issue of assessment language proficiency among immigrant students and its possible impact on cognitive outcomes in PISA. It explores the effect of age at arrival on the performance of immigrant students in the PISA tests of literacy.
Selective migration policies of certain countries and the attractiveness of these countries generally to highly educated migrants is also explored.

It also discusses the future educational and professional career of the children of immigrant related to their performance in PISA. Does the skill and knowledge disadvantage at age 15 translate into a disadvantage in later educational outcomes? For example, are those children of immigrants less likely to access a post-secondary educational institution?

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  • Foreword
    Integrating immigrant student populations poses significant challenges to the quality and equity of education systems across OECD countries. Migration is not a new phenomenon, but ageing populations and the looming threat of labour and skill shortages have brought the issue to the top of the policy agenda in many countries. A country’s success in integrating immigrants’ children is a key benchmark of the efficacy of social policy in general and educational policy in particular. Education systems that allow all students to achieve their potential manage to combine excellence and equity.
  • Executive Summary
    The best way to measure how well immigrants are integrated into a society is arguably not by how their outcomes compare with those of their native-born peers, but rather by their children’s outcomes. There are always reasons to explain why adult immigrants do not do as well as native-born individuals in the labour market. For example, they may not speak the language of their new country fluently, or their qualifications or work experience obtained abroad may not be recognised, or equivalent to domestic qualifications, or adapted to what is required in the destination country. However, one would not necessarily expect such reasons to apply to immigrants’ children who were born in the country or who arrived when they were quite young and were fully, or almost fully, educated in the country of residence. This would particularly be the case if immigrant parents had the same educational attainment or, more generally, a similar socio-economic background as non-immigrant parents, on average.
  • Reader's Guide
  • Overview of Immigration Regimes and Education Systems
    Different immigration and education policies across countries shape the context in which the children of immigrants strive to learn. History, international treaties and domestic immigration policy are all factors which have influenced and continue to influence the immigrant intake in a particular country. Education systems differ in the way they distribute resources and establish system-wide and school-level policies. The following overview of the context in which children of immigrants learn is intended to provide a frame of reference for the evidence and results discussed in subsequent chapters.
  • The Performance Profiles of Immigrant Students
    This chapter provides an overview of the results emerging from PISA 2009 on the performance and socio-economic background of immigrant students. What do they know and what can they do? How do they differ from other students? The evidence highlights the differences and similarities across countries with respect to the challenges and opportunities posed by immigrant student populations. Recent trends show that performance differences are related to both policy and the underlying profiles of immigrant populations.
  • Mastery of the Assessment Language and Reading Outcomes
    Many children of immigrants face a language barrier at school – they speak a different language at home than the language of instruction, which is also the language of their PISA test. Immigrant students with lower levels of performance in PISA tend to speak another language at home. Greater exposure to and the mastery of the assessment language is associated with better performance. Policies which promote this enhanced exposure are likely to help bridge the gap between immigrant and non-immigrant students.
  • Immigrant Students' Age at Arrival and Assessment Results
    Age at arrival is an important factor in helping to describe much of the performance gap between immigrant and non-immigrant students. In general, the later in their life immigrant student arrived in the hostcountry, the lower their performance in PISA. Mastery of the assessment language, once more, plays an important role in explaining this pattern. Late-arrival penalties vary across countries, but they are more pronounced for those immigrant students who do not speak the assessment language at home.
  • Parental Education, Immigrant Concentration and PISA Outcomes
    Part of the underperformance of immigrant students in PISA can be linked to the fact that they tend to be concentrated in disadvantaged schools. Indeed, the latter is a stronger predictor of immigrant outcomes than either the concentration of immigrants in schools per se or even who mostly speak another language at home. Attendance in a disadvantaged school has a strong adverse impact on reading performance, whatever the origin of the student. In addition, immigrant students with highly educated mothers are more likely to attend disadvantaged schools than are non-immigrant students with mothers of similar education. So their performance suffers as well. These results highlight the fact that educational and social policies interact to limit opportunities for school success among immigrant students.
  • Post-Secondary Attendance of Immigrants in Switzerland and Canada
    Is the performance gap between 15-year-old immigrant and non-immigrant students reflected in later outcomes, such as educational attainment? This chapter uses data from Switzerland’s and Canada’s longitudinal follow-ups to PISA to evaluate the extent to which differences in performance in PISA are associated with enrolment in tertiary education by age 24. These two cases highlight the differences and similarities in educational outcomes between two different educational systems and immigration regimes and the factors associated with these outcomes.
  • Technical Background
  • Data Tables on Immigrant Students
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