Skip to main content

Immigrant pupils 'perform better in UK than most other developed countries'

But immigrant pupils are less satisfied with life compared with their classmates, according to OECD research

News article image

But immigrant pupils are less satisfied with life compared with their classmates, according to OECD research

The attainment gap between pupils with an immigrant background and their native-born peers is significantly smaller in the UK than in other economically developed countries.

However, they are relatively less satisfied with life compared with their classmates, according to an  Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development study.

The study is based on data from the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey, which looked at the performance of 15-year-olds across maths, reading and science. 

More than one in four students in the UK had an immigrant background in the 2015 Pisa survey, a share that is slightly larger than the OECD as a whole, finds Resilience of Students with an Immigrant Background: factors that shape wellbeing.

The proportion of pupils in the UK with an immigrant background grew by 9 percentage points between the 2003 and 2015 Pisa studies – compared with 6 percentage points across the OECD.

Pisa divides its scores into six proficiency levels: pupils below level 2 are "low achievers" and those with a score of level 5 or 6 are "high achievers".

In Pisa 2015, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of pupils born in the UK, and 67 per cent of immigrant pupils, attained at least proficiency level 2 in the three Pisa subjects.

This 7 percentage-point difference is significantly smaller than the OECD average of 18 percentage points.

Similar to most OECD countries, in the UK the proportion of second-generation immigrant students who attained academic proficiency (71 per cent) was greater than the proportion of first-generation students who did (62 per cent).

Those who arrived in this country after the age of 12 were less likely to catch up with their classmates, the study shows.

In the UK, there was no statistical difference between the proportion of immigrant pupils and non-immigrant pupils reporting a sense of belonging at school.

Helping migrant pupils to settle in

But immigrant pupils were 9 percentage points less likely than UK-born pupils to report being satisfied with life – a bigger gap than the OECD average of 6 percentage points.

The report says there are many things that schools can do both to help immigrant pupils, and to help countries to benefit from the new arrivals.

It states: "Education systems, schools and teachers can play a significant role in helping students with an immigrant background integrate into their communities, overcome adversity and build their academic, social, emotional and motivational resilience.

"Introducing early assessment of language and other skills, providing targeted language training, building a diversity-aware teaching force that can support all learners, offering additional support to disadvantaged students and schools, implementing effective anti-bullying programmes, ensuring the availability of and participation in extracurricular activities and engaging parents can improve the wellbeing of students with an immigrant background, in all of its facets."

Gabriela Ramos, OECD chief of staff and "sherpa" to the G20, who oversees the work of education at the OECD, launched the report in Brussels today.

"A good education is essential to give young migrants the skills they need to overcome adversity, contribute to the economy and integrate into society," she said.

"It is alarming that, if you compare a sample of 100 European students with an immigrant background with a similar group of native students, 15 more students in the immigrant group will fail to attain baseline levels of proficiency in science, reading and maths.

"This is unacceptable and has long-lasting effects on both integration and broader social cohesion. Countries need to do more to provide these kids with the means, instruments and support to succeed in school. We need targeted policies that give everyone the opportunity to fulfil their full potential.”

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes on Twitter and like Tes on Facebook

 

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you