Chapter 2. Consider the heterogeneity of immigrant populations

This chapter builds on evidence from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the OECD Survey of Adult Skills. The extent to which policies and practices can be implemented to provide adequate support to immigrants is discussed, recognising the heterogeneity of their circumstances which is dictated both by their unique migration experiences and learning journeys (both prior to and post migration).

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

Public discussions often group all individuals with an immigration background together and discuss them as a homogeneous group characterised by low skills, language difficulties and disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Indeed, individuals with an immigrant background, defined here as being either foreign-born or having at least one foreign-born parent, share an important characteristic: they are either foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent. Characterising individuals by their immigration background can be useful to target service delivery and, as a result, support integration processes. However, grouping individuals based on their immigration background can create barriers within communities and distinguish between different social groups. Homogenising individuals because of status and background often has the intended (or unintended) consequence of dehumanising members of the particular group considered. As a result, some people may find it harder to develop strong connections and feelings of empathy towards members of this group.

The consideration that immigrants are homogeneous in many countries is rooted in the fact that in the past, migration flows often followed established paths that determined the composition of immigrant communities: geographical proximity, linguistic proximity or colonial ties. As a result, the specific make-up of immigrant communities in many countries was relatively homogeneous. However, today immigrant populations are highly heterogeneous, both across and within countries (OECD, 2018[1]; OECD, 2018[2]).

In order to address the risks associated with having an immigrant background and support the resilience of immigrants and refugees, education professionals (teachers, educators and trainers) need to know the personal histories of individual students and trainees, develop the tact that is necessary to discuss their past experiences, and be aware of how migration can affect academic performance, social integration, and well-being (emotional and psychological). Individuals with an immigrant background should receive support to help them achieve their potential, but care should be taken if and when targeted initiatives are implemented to avoid stigmatising individuals because of their background.

Data shows that immigrant populations are highly heterogeneous, both across and within the countries. For example, data from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills indicates that around one in every four immigrant adults attained only primary education or lower. At the same time, almost as many as one in three foreign-born individuals in OECD countries holds a higher education degree (OECD, 2018[1]). Data from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills also reveals that in many countries the languages spoken by foreign-born participants were highly diverse.

Table 2.1 illustrates the diversity of foreign-born individuals surveyed in the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). In Australia, Canada and New Zealand, over one in four individuals in PIAAC was foreign-born. In certain countries, such as Greece and Lithuania, foreign-born individuals were particularly likely to have arrived before the age of 6. In Denmark, England (United Kingdom), Ireland, New Zealand and Norway, at least one in 5 foreign-born individuals were recent immigrants. While in Chile virtually all immigrants speak the host country language and in the Czech Republic, England (United Kingdom), Estonia, France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand and Spain over two-thirds of them speak the host language, in Finland, Norway, Singapore, Sweden and the United States, less than one in two immigrants speak the host country language. In Canada, Israel and Russia, more than one in two foreign-born individuals completed tertiary education, while in Italy and Slovenia, respectively, less than one in ten and one in five have.

Table 2.1. A profile of immigrants in the Survey of Adult Skills

 

Share in total population

Share among native-born

Share among foreign-born

Foreign-born (%)

Recent immigrants (%)

Immigrants who arrived before age 6 (%)

Immigrants who speak the host country language (%)

Immigrants with foreign qualification (%)

At most upper secondary

Tertiary

All

Highest qualification obtained in host country

Highest qualification obtained in elsewhere

At most upper secondary

Tertiary

At most upper secondary

Tertiary

At most upper secondary

Tertiary

Australia

27.9

..

..

..

..

30.0

27.7

21.2

46.8

 

 

 

 

Austria

16.3

9.1

9.8

50.2

69.5

21.5

15.9

29.8

21.7

30.8

19.5

27.5

26.5

Canada

25.7

14.3

12.6

54.1

53.4

16.0

42.1

11.5

58.2

11.3

62.2

11.7

53.6

Chile

3.8

45.2

9.8

99.7

60.3

32.5

24.8

24.5

38.3

24.9

33.5

23.9

45.7

Czech Republic

4.4

9.9

24.7

72.6

47.9

15.2

17.4

24.4

27.5

13.7

26.4

34.2

28.5

Denmark

11.8

19.7

13.9

50.0

50.5

25.7

33.6

31.1

38.0

27.6

38.8

34.8

37.3

England/N. Ireland (UK)

15.0

22.5

13.5

66.4

47.4

24.9

33.9

19.6

48.4

8.3

55.1

29.4

42.6

Estonia

13.0

1.7

26.0

96.1

40.5

19.6

35.6

8.3

43.5

9.4

43.1

7.6

43.9

Finland

5.8

17.5

15.9

39.7

50.9

19.6

35.7

24.9

30.6

23.4

32.4

27.3

27.8

Flanders (Belgium)

7.7

11.7

15.4

61.1

59.7

19.4

36.7

24.1

32.1

27.2

33.2

20.9

31.0

France

12.8

5.7

17.7

71.7

41.9

25.4

27.1

44.6

24.6

53.1

21.6

38.5

26.8

Germany

13.9

6.8

13.4

..

50.3

15.3

30.3

30.0

25.7

27.3

31.7

32.7

19.6

Greece

9.7

1.7

32.9

88.4

37.9

32.1

25.1

33.3

22.0

31.1

22.0

34.6

22.0

Ireland

21.0

18.4

14.5

69.0

63.3

31.5

29.2

17.0

41.2

15.5

42.6

19.6

38.7

Israel

22.7

2.3

24.8

66.6

39.4

20.2

37.5

9.8

54.1

6.6

60.0

11.9

50.2

Italy

9.3

8.8

15.2

56.9

67.5

53.8

12.7

53.6

7.5

53.7

5.6

53.3

11.5

Lithuania

3.5

1.0

44.6

72.5

20.0

12.2

26.1

3.9

26.8

10.5

16.5

2.2

29.4

Netherlands

12.9

8.5

17.7

62.0

49.3

30.0

30.8

37.6

29.4

37.2

29.5

38.0

29.3

New Zealand

28.8

20.7

12.5

65.6

57.1

26.1

36.8

14.0

59.8

12.7

66.6

15.8

50.4

Norway

13.5

24.9

9.4

38.9

58.3

27.7

33.7

25.5

41.0

21.9

42.4

30.5

39.1

Russia

5.7

4.5

26.9

..

38.5

7.3

61.3

2.3

59.1

3.5

59.1

1.5

59.1

Singapore

23.2

5.0

10.7

34.4

62.4

20.0

40.7

15.2

63.3

16.5

61.9

13.0

65.8

Slovenia

12.4

5.7

12.4

54.8

62.0

21.9

24.7

36.3

11.8

45.9

6.6

20.6

20.4

Spain

13.3

13.3

6.9

74.6

72.5

47.4

30.4

47.9

21.1

45.3

21.5

54.6

20.1

Sweden

17.5

13.6

12.9

42.0

47.8

21.7

27.5

33.6

31.1

34.5

34.2

32.8

28.3

United States

14.7

9.5

12.5

41.5

53.7

12.6

35.5

27.0

35.6

36.6

24.7

15.8

48.2

Note: The sample includes persons aged 16 to 65.

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015) www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/publicdataandanalysis/ (access date 14 May 2019).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933940037

Individuals differ not only in their background characteristics, but also in the experiences they have with migration. Such differences are importantly associated with both the specific difficulties individuals encounter, as well as the assets they are equipped with (OECD, 2018[1]). Individuals’ migration experience interacts with additional factors such as personal and family circumstances, relationships with peers, school personnel and system-level support, to shape the uniqueness of each individual with an immigrant background.

Evidence from the 2015 edition of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) highlights some of the differences observed among 15-year-old students with an immigrant background. Across OECD countries, 23% of students with an immigrant background were foreign-born and had at least one foreign-born parent; 31% were native-born but had two foreign-born parents; 38% were native-born and had one native-born and one foreign-born parent and a further 8% were foreign-born but had native-born parents (OECD, 2018[1]).

Between 2003 and 2015 in most OECD countries, the number of students with an immigrant background largely increased: the percentage of native-born children of native-born parents decreased between 2003 and 2015 in as many as 26 out of the 39 countries and economies with comparable data (OECD, 2018[1]). On average across OECD countries, the decrease of native-born children of native-born parents was as large as 6 percentage points and it was over 15 percentage points in Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland. The percentage of native-born students of native-born parents increased only in Latvia, Macao (China), Russia and Uruguay. While in most countries the number of students without a recent experience of migration in the family shrank significantly between 2003 and 2015, Figure 2.2 suggests that countries differ markedly in the composition of their student population and in how the make-up of the group with an immigrant background has evolved over time.

Figure 2.1. Students with an immigrant background, by group
Percentage of students that are either first-generation immigrants, returning foreign-born immigrants, second-generation immigrants, or native students of mixed heritage, by country
Figure 2.1. Students with an immigrant background, by group

Note: Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of the percentage of students with an immigrant background.

Source: OECD, PISA 2015 and 2003 Database.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933939581

Figure 2.2. Changes in the percentage of students with an immigrant background between 2003 and 2015
Percentage point change between 2003 and 2015
Figure 2.2. Changes in the percentage of students with an immigrant background between 2003 and 2015

Note: Changes between 2003 and 2015 that are statistically significant are indicated with darker or striped bars. Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of the cumulative percentage point change in the share of first-generation immigrants, second-generation immigrants and native students of mixed heritage between 2003 and 2015.

Source: OECD, PISA 2015 Database and PISA 2003 Database.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933939600

These trends reveal major changes that are not only quantitative, but also qualitative: the number of immigrants arriving in many OECD countries is increasing, and so is the heterogeneity of immigrant groups. Increases in the quantity and diversity of individuals with an immigrant background will require that host communities develop the skills needed to adapt to new concepts of identity, culture and citizenship. Policy responses will also need to be designed, implemented and evaluated, in addition to being tailor-made to adequately respond to the different needs of diverse populations. However, increases in diversity provide greater opportunities for host communities to grow because the pool of talent that countries can draw upon is larger (Alesina and La Ferrara, 2005[3]).

Another way to express that a quantitative increase in the share of foreign-born populations has been accompanied by a qualitative increase in the diversity of foreign-born populations at the population level is to identify the likelihood that any two individuals within a population will have been born in the same country. Figure 2.3 shows how the overall level of birthplace diversity has changed in OECD countries between 1990 and 2010. This change is due both to an increase in the overall number of foreign-born individuals as well as an increase in diversity in countries of origin.

Figure 2.3. Trends in the likelihood that two individuals who are resident in the same country were born in different countries, by country of residence
The likelihood of any two individuals within a population to have been born in different countries
Figure 2.3. Trends in the likelihood that two individuals who are resident in the same country were born in different countries, by country of residence

Note: Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of the likelihood of two individuals being born in different countries in 2010.

Source: Trends in International Migrant Stock (United Nations database, POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2012).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933939619

From evidence to action: Lessons from the field including examples of policies and practices to recognise the individuality of immigrants.

Migration poses significant challenges for education and training systems because it can create large variability in the number of people that require education services and resources within short timeframes. This is problematic both for education systems in countries that had been adjusting to shrinking student populations due to low fertility and in countries where provision is already stretched thin, especially in remote areas or socio-economically disadvantaged communities where immigrants and refugees often converge. Migration also increases the heterogeneity of populations served and the types of needs they have. For example, access to prior education and training can vary substantially across regions. Even when access and participation are equal, the differences in the learning outcomes, learning styles and individual strategies that students adopt when learning in different school systems can be large.

Consider the various dimensions of an individual’s migration experience

Education is an important means through which migration can be managed since it is the primary organised vehicle through which societies transmit social and cultural codes that forge social relations. Yet, collecting data, evidence and statistics on immigrants and their characteristics to ensure that education and training systems have the capacity to meet their needs is complicated. Population movements take very different forms: international vs. internal; temporary vs. permanent; those moving in successive stages vs. those returning; documented vs. undocumented; and voluntary vs. forced. The populations also vary: internally displaced and refugee populations; students vs. workers and, in the latter case, skilled or unskilled, and so on.

Three factors involving an individual’s background are key for a discussion on data and statistics needed to address questions related to education, migration, and displacement:

  • Space: The implications of movements on education and organising resources that education systems need to meet the needs of immigrants are significantly different depending on the distance of the migratory movement and its relation to national, international and regional borders. These factors can be discussed in terms of free mobility and legal restrictions, but also cultural distance and ease of adapting to a new location.

  • Time: Similarly, the implications for education systems also depend on the (intended) duration of movement and residence (e.g. seasonal, short-term and circular vs. permanent). Additional aspects that can affect education systems include age at migration and the number of generations that have passed since migration and displacement have occurred.

  • Reason: People move for different reasons. They may migrate willingly for employment, education, or family formation/reunification. Migration can also be due to displacement, with people fleeing from war or persecution in their country of origin or increasingly, relocating due to natural disasters and climate change. The educational implications of these movements can vary drastically. For example, displaced children may not have attended school for a long time, have particularly low skills for their age, or have suffered traumatic experiences, which may reduce the ability to adjust to a new school environment.

Similarly, two types of education outcomes related to migration and displacement are also framing the discussion:

  • Individual: The migration and displacement experience shapes the ability of children, youth and adults to complete their education and acquire the different types of knowledge, skills and attitudes that are necessary to succeed in their personal, social and professional life. Different education-related data sources capture distinct outcomes along this range. For example, the data from the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) can help measure knowledge, skills and increasingly attitudes and global competence (in the 2018 cycle). The International Civic and Citizenship Study (ICCS) data could be used for civic and citizenship skills as well as attitudes and knowledge.

  • Social: Education is a key mechanism for promoting tolerance, including towards immigrants and refugees. By promoting tolerance, education can also foster the values, attitudes, and norms that improve interpersonal trust and increase civic engagement, which are important pillars of democracy.

Preparing teachers to consider the various dimensions of migration experiences of students with an immigrant background can help students fully benefit from their education. Initial teacher education (ITE) systems that are competence-based, in addition to transversal and comprehensive curricular approaches have been shown to be effective in providing student teachers with knowledge on diversity. Research from the European Commission’s 2017 report, “Preparing teachers for diversity: the role of initial teacher education (European Commission, 2017[4]),” shows that diversity plays a central role in the policies and strategies of 37 countries (mostly EU-members). However, the report calls for a paradigm shift to explicitly target different kinds of diversity in policies. Classrooms should be consistently monitored and evaluated to ensure policies and mechanisms are the best adapted to students with an immigrant background from year to year. This requires institutional support, strong partnerships, effective governance and elaborated frameworks to link theories to practice. Good practice examples include the National Centre for Multicultural Education in Norway (http://nafo.oslomet.no/om-nafo/about-nafo/) and the “Let’s compare our languages” programme in France (www.schooleducationgateway.eu/en/pub/resources/toolkitsforschools/detail.cfm?n=562).

An approach practiced in New York City (United States) provides teachers with an opportunity to enter the student’s environment. Teachers in New York visited the neighbourhoods where their students lived, which allowed them to better understand their students’ home environments and the cultural backgrounds. This exercise also promoted empathy through a reversal of roles since students normally enter the teacher’s environment at school and in the classroom.

In Hungary, teachers participate in teacher training with a team of psychologists. The programme aims to improve their pedagogical practice to diverse groups of students by observing themselves and understanding the psychological effects of their teaching practice.

Another mechanism to promote the consideration of various dimensions of an individual’s migration experience is to hire teachers that reflect the diverse student body in a given school. Research shows that teachers from diverse backgrounds are better able to attend to the emotional development of their students (based on student test scores). Furthermore, data found that students who are taught by teachers of colour do better on standardised tests. This does not mean that students of colour should be matched with a teacher of colour per se, but rather that the composition of the teaching staff in any given school should be diverse, which can benefit students with an immigrant background, native students and other teachers.

Develop a stronger evidence base

Many international and national surveys and assessments can help us better understand the migration phenomena to support the design and implementation of effective education policies. However, the current evidence infrastructure could be improved to better identify the heterogeneity of immigrant populations.

Countries must develop better indicators and implement more effective evaluation mechanisms to assess how well practices, policies and programmes are supporting different groups of students with an immigrant background. Evaluation is important for measuring teacher incentives, resource allocation, initial teacher training, professional development and policies towards teachers with an immigrant background.

In Chile, several distinct national tests monitor a number of characteristics of diverse students (including the number of minority students in schools, geographic location of schools, whether the school performs well depending on contextual factors and so on). Schools are then classified and well-performing schools receive money and a ‘big achiever’ status. However, the classification system’s implementation by policymakers is not reliable and can result in inaccurate classifications, which can prevent schools that need additional resources from accessing them.

References

[3] Alesina, A. and E. La Ferrara (2005), “Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance”, Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 43/3, pp. 762-800, http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/002205105774431243.

[4] European Commission (2017), Preparing teachers for diversity, http://dx.doi.org/10.2766/637002.

[2] OECD (2018), Skills on the Move: Migrants in the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD Skills Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264307353-en.

[1] OECD (2018), The Resilience of Students with an Immigrant Background: Factors that Shape Well-being, OECD Reviews of Migrant Education, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264292093-en.

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