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Untapped Skills

Realising the Potential of Immigrant Students

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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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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.

English

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