EU states trail in immigrant education

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue May 16 14:15:51 UTC 2006

EU states trail in immigrant education

>>From correspondents in Brussels

May 16, 2006

THE old member states of the European Union do far worse than countries
such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada at educating immigrant children
to give them equal opportunities, a report published today shows. The
study, Where Immigrant Students Succeed, shows children born abroad or to
immigrant parents underperform most compared to native-born students in
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and
Switzerland. Against a backdrop of last year's riots in France's poor
high-rise suburbs and high youth unemployment across Western Europe, the
survey examines the role of education in the success and failure to
integrate immigrant children. Produced by the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD), it says language support in schools is
the key differentiator between countries that succeed in integrating
immigrant students and those that fail.

Based on the authoritative 2003 PISA study of education, it said that, in
a majority of the 30-nation OECD's highly developed member states, at
least one immigrant student in four leaves school without basic
mathematical skills. "These individuals could face considerable challenges
in their future professional and personal lives," it said. Germany emerges
worst of the 17 countries studied in detail. About 40 per cent of
second-generation immigrant children leave school without baseline
proficiency in mathematics. Sweden emerges best among West European states
for its success rates in reducing educational inequality between
second-generational immigrant children and the native population.

The report said immigrant children are highly motivated learners and,
contrary to common assumptions, high levels of immigration do not
necessarily impair integration. Educational and socio-economic background
only partially explain the differences in achievement of immigrants, it
said. The countries that do best are those with well established language
support programs in schools with explicit curricula and standards and
supplementary classes for first and second-generation immigrants, the
study concludes. In response to the report, German Education Minister
Annette Schavan vowed to focus on early education of immigrant children.

"We know that schools have the task of integrating and we need to follow
through on that task," Ms Schavan told a news conference in Berlin. "From
the very first day in school, and even before that, we need to make sure
that pupils have equal access," she said. OECD education expert Andreas
Schleicher told a briefing in Brussels that the data showed traditional
settlement countries did better at integrating immigrants so that the
second generation often outperformed native children in schools. The
lesson for European countries was that "time alone is not going to solve
the problem", he said, noting that in Germany, second generation immigrant
children actually had worse results in mathematics than the first

Rebutting popular belief, Mr Schleicher said no one could argue on the
basis of the data that countries with high immigration levels were doing
worse. Conversely, a small immigrant population did not guarantee good
performance. A comparison of the performance of immigrants from Turkey and
former Yugoslavia in Western Europe showed big differences between
Switzerland, which did better in integrating newcomers, and Germany, which
was the least successful.


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