OECD Report Highlights Immigrant Students’ Experiences


A new OECD study called “Helping immigrant students to succeed at school – and beyond” reveals that even though the number of immigrant students doesn’t affect student achievement, if a large number of poor immigrant students attend a school, then all students’ performance is negatively affected.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD Director for Education and Skill, says better policies need to be in place to avoid the phenomenon, which is prevalent in Belgium, Greece, Slovenia, Italy and the Netherlands, in which many disadvantaged students attend low-performing schools. The OECD recommends limiting the extent to which schools can choose students based on socio-economic background and encourages more advantaged students to attend schools hosting immigrant students.

Through a review of migration trends between 2000 and 2012 and PISA test results, the OECD researchers concluded:

“Across OECD countries, there is no significant association between the share of immigrant students and student performance.”

The OECD authors highlight that it’s not the sheer quantity of immigrant students concentrated in a school that negatively affects students’ achievement but rather, the socio-economic situation of the young immigrants:

“The concentration of immigrant students in schools does not, in itself, have to have adverse effects on student performance or on integration efforts. PISA reveals that it is not the concentration of immigrant students in a school but, rather, the concentration of socioeconomic disadvantage in a school that hinders student achievement.”

According to the OECD, first-generation immigrants in Denmark, Sweden, France, Spain and Belgium, among other countries, fall below OECD’s average in computer-based problem solving. First-generation immigrants in Singapore, Macao-China, Australia, Canada and Hong-Kong, fared better than the OECD average on the same PISA test.

What is more, immigrant student performance varied depending on the hosting country. For example, students from Albania did better in math in Greece compared to Montenegro. Students from Iraq did better in math when these students settled in the Netherlands. Those in Denmark and Finland did not do as well.

Reporting on OECD’s findings, Jenny Anderson from Quartz says that in schools where one in four students is a first-generation immigrant, student performance is 18 points lower than that of students in schools without any immigrant students.

The report reveals that the socio-economic status of immigrant students affects their school’s performance, but that’s not the only factor. Student intrinsic motivation and parental support also have a role to play in how well students do at school.

Looking at immigrant student integration in their hosts countries, the report reveals that students in France feel the least sense of belonging at school, the BBC says.

On the contrary, immigrant students in the UK, Israel, Greece, Argentina, Mexico and the US expressed a more intense sense of belonging in the schools of their new countries.

For immigrant students from Arabic-speaking countries, the Netherlands was the country with the strongest sense of belonging for students while Qatar fostered a sense of belonging the least.

Teachers in Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Chile, Romania, and Spain feel they do not have the skills to teach a class with broad ethnic diversity.