Immigrant children typically do worse at school than their fellow pupils. There are many reasons for this difference in performance and in test scores:
- Immigrant families are often poor
- Immigrant children’s parents are often undereducated: immigrants are attracted to low-paid, low-skilled jobs because that’s where the opportunities are; and even though many immigrants work below their level of education, the labor market may exert a downward pressure on the levels of education of the entrants, and hence also of their children
- Immigrant families often do not know the language as well as the locals (or their children start school without any knowledge of the language at all)
However, even when we correct for these disadvantages, as the OECD does in its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), not all of the gap is closed. See this graph:
Apart from some exceptions – notably the Chinese immigrants – there is still a gap and immigrants are underperforming in schools.
The interesting thing about this graph, as pointed out by The Economist, is that it allows us to compare the results of one type of immigrant community in different host countries. Turkish immigrants, for example, do much better in Belgium or Switzerland than in Austria or Denmark. If children do differently depending on where they end up, then it’s possible to conclude that the schooling systems in the host countries play a part in the performance of the pupils. Or, if not the schooling system as such, then the way in which the system deals with immigrant children (does it treat them fairly, or does it automatically side-track them in low-level schools or disciplines?).
Of course, we should be careful not to put all the blame on schools, poverty, language etc. Immigrants are to a certain extent responsible for their own behavior and accomplishments.
Some more data, specifically for the US this time: