Children of immigrants at academic disadvantage

Children of immigrants are less likely to achieve a university education than the children of Swiss parents, a study published on Tuesday has found.

This content was published on June 21, 2011 - 11:49 and agencies

Conducted by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), the study examined the primary level achievements of over 5,000 children born in 1985 in German-speaking Switzerland.

It found that although immigrant children did not achieve worse marks than Swiss ones, they were under-represented in so-called matura schools – for pupils expecting to go on to university – and in higher education.

The study found the problem lay in the financial or cultural circumstances, such as language, of their parents. Children of educated or better-off parents were more likely to achieve a university degree than children born to immigrants or to less wealthy parents in general.

 “Children of immigrants from Turkey, Portugal and the Balkans are disadvantaged, but not because they are discriminated against by teachers,” the study said. “There is nothing to indicate that the school system disadvantages them in a structural manner.”

It found that 87 per cent of immigrant parents wished to see their child obtain a high school certificate, compared with 69 per cent of Swiss parents.

Children born to immigrants from France, Germany and Austria are more likely to succeed than Swiss children thanks to their more comfortable socio-economic background, the study found.

In a statement on the study the SNF says the fact that immigrant children are disadvantaged “harms the economy, since it means that individuals capable of high achievements who come from families where education is not a priority, are unable to develop their potential – something that is significantly commoner in Switzerland than in some of its neighbours”.

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