Academic Achievement of Students in Schools with High Numbers of Migrant Children

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Abstract

The article presents the results of studying the relationship between the academic achievements of students and the number of migrant children studying with them. The presented review of studies conducted on various ethno-cultural and national samples shows the ambiguity of this relationship. The authors analyzed statistical data on the ratio of children of foreign citizens in the region, as well as on the number of educational organizations with different ratios of children of foreign citizens in relation to schoolchildren with Russian citizenship. These indicators were compared with the assessment of the quality of education, for which the overall indicator of the education quality in the Russian regions presented by Rosobrnadzor was used, as well as with the index of the socio-economic situation in the regions. Analysis of data from the 85 regions of the Russian Federation showed that the ratio of migrant students (foreign citizens) in Russia to students with Russian citizenship in general education institutions is not related to the quality of education in the region considering its socio-economic situation. Basing on the results of discussion and comparison with the data of the world-wide research, we conclude that the concentration of migrant children in an educational institution should not act as a significant marker of educational policy in this area.

General Information

Keywords: migrant children, academic achievements, resilience, academic success, socio-economic status

Journal rubric: Educational Psychology

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/pse.2022270504

Funding. The study was carried out as part of the implementation of the state grant of the Moscow State University of Psychology & Education for 2022 “Scientific and methodological development and testing of a system for identifying the special educational needs of foreign minors and the necessary psychological and pedagogical support of their learning processes, social and cultural adaptation”.

Received: 01.06.2022

Accepted:

For citation: Khukhlaev O.E., Chibisova M.Y. Academic Achievement of Students in Schools with High Numbers of Migrant Children. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2022. Vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 46–56. DOI: 10.17759/pse.2022270504.

Full text

Introduction

The study of the factors influencing educational achievements of students is invariably of interest to both researchers and practitioners. It has been shown that educational outcomes can be determined by the characteristics of students themselves, both psychological (motivation, resilience, etc.) and socio-demographic (access to early education, etc.), their interaction with reference persons [12; 18]. A fairly large array of data has also been accumulated, showing that the socio-economic characteristics of school and the region of residence can be considered as determinants of educational achievements [3]. Increasing importance of problems of psychological and pedagogical support for students-children of foreign citizens stimulates attention to the number of migrant children in an educational organization as a factor influencing the educational results of students. In this article, we will focus on the educational achievements of host culture students attending educational institutions with a high number of migrant children.

The results of similar studies conducted on various ethnocultural and national samples are ambiguous.

In a number of studies, no relationship was found between the concentration of migrant children and students’ educational achievements. According to the report of the UK education system, there is no relationship between the proportion of students with English as a second language (EAL) among students in the region and the overall level of student achievement [15]. A Norwegian study [11] found that the ethnic composition of school does not affect educational achievements of schoolchildren belonging to the ethnic majority and second-generation migrants.

Research also shows evidence that the concentration of migrant children is positively associated with the academic achievement of the host population.

In France [8], it was found that the concentration of foreigners in school increases the likelihood of them being on the academic track in upper secondary school. This demonstrates the positive impact of the concentration of migrants in school on second-generation migrant students.

A large-scale study of the impact of an increase in the number of migrant children in schools on academic success was conducted in Spain in 2003—2009 using PISA data [19]. The influence of migrant children concentration in schools on changes in indicators of the quality of education, including the number of children remaining in school, was studied. The results showed that an increase in the number of migrant children does not result in growing number of students who repeat an academic year; on the contrary, this number is slightly reduced.

A Norwegian study [14] examined the impact of the concentration of migrant children in schools on the completion of secondary education (which is not compulsory in Norway). Controlling for the influence of educational organization type, family characteristics, etc., the researchers found that students in cohorts with a large number of migrant peers in the same school show a higher probability of completing education.

At the same time, some studies conclude that the academic success of schoolchildren is negatively associated with an increase in the number of migrant children learning together with them.

In the Netherlands, a study of primary school students was conducted, focusing on the effect of the migrant children concentration in the classroom on the academic achievements of host society children [9]. The authors found that while the number of migrant classmates who have been in the Netherlands for several years has no effect on the achievement of local students, there is a negative effect of class concentration on migrant children who have been in the country for a short period. The effect size, however, is small and only statistically significant for the Dutch language skill.

In Spain [10], it has been shown that the concentration of non-Hispanic migrant students (i.e., those whose mother tongue is not Spanish) in schools is negatively associated with student test scores in mathematics, but this effect is not significant. The authors of the study explain these results by the assumption that migrant children are more likely to study together with students from socially disadvantaged groups, and therefore the reason for the worse results of schoolchildren who study with migrants is their socio-economic status.

The assumption that the socio-economic status is the primary factor, and the “migrant” or “foreign language” background of students acts as a so-called “false correlation” corresponds to the data obtained by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) [13].

According to PISA results in OECD countries, 15-year-old students attending schools with a high concentration of migrants tend to perform worse in school than students attending schools with no migrant students. But this difference reflects the fact that many migrant students are at a socio-economic disadvantage. The average OECD difference in Math performance between students attending schools with a high proportion of migrants compared to students attending schools without such students is 18 points, equivalent to about six months of schooling. But after taking into account the socio-economic situation of students and schools, the difference decreased to 5 points. Socio-economic differences aside, in 14 out of 35 comparable countries/economies, students in schools with high concentrations of migrant students underperform in Mathematics.

However, after accounting for these differences, the number of countries/economies where these students underperform drops to seven. Moreover, in most of them, the differences in performance are so small that they are actually negligible. Thus, the PISA data show that it is not the concentration of immigrant students at school, but rather the concentration of socio-economic disadvantages in the school that hinders student achievement.

Although the PISA data are highly reliable, their limitation can be attributed to the fact they are based on a cross-sectional analysis of only 15-year-old. Whether these conclusions can be extended to all levels of education is a debatable question. Also, accommodating national and cultural specifics in PISA data can be reflected in the results of individual countries. Thus, the hypothesis about the prevalence of socio-economic unfavorable conditions over migration experience requires additional confirmation on the Russian sample. The presence of contradictions in the results of international studies also indicates the relevance of raising this issue.

In Russia, studies of the problem of the influence of the number of migrant students on educational achievements have not been previously conducted. The only known data are presented in a representative study of schools in St. Petersburg [7], which examined the influence of gender, ethnicity, and migration status on the educational success and plans of students in grades 8—10. It was found that schoolchildren with migration experience study better than St. Petersburg children, while the first generation gets a greater advantage than the second (an increase in grades by 0.059 and 0.044 times, respectively).

Our study was aimed at testing the hypothesis that the number of migrant students does not affect the quality of education of host society students, but socio-economic characteristics are significant for this.

Sample and Research Methods

As a marker of the number of migrant children, data from the federal statistical observation form of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation were used [6]. We used the data on how many children were studying in comprehensive educational institutions of each region of the Russian Federation as of September 20, 2021 and how many of them have foreign citizenship. Based on this, for each region of the Russian Federation, the ratio of students-children of foreign citizens in the region was calculated.

To determine the ratio of the number of foreign citizens and citizens of the Russian Federation, learning together, we also used the data of the results of the monitoring, carried out by the Ministry of Education of Russia in the fourth quarter of 2021, presented in the Analytical Report of the Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution of Higher Education MSUPE “Approaches to establishing the ratio of the number of foreign citizens and citizens of the Russian Federation, optimal for social, language and cultural adaptation of foreign students” [1]. In this report, for each region of the Russian Federation, the quantity of comprehensive education institutions with the following ratio of students-foreign citizens to students with Russian citizenship is presented: less than 1%; from 1 to 3%; from 3—10%; from 10—20%; from 20—50%; over 50%. For each ratio, the analysis included the population for each of the 85 regions of the Russian Federation, with the exception of ratio of less than 1%: due to filling errors, these data are valid only for 35 regions.

The criterion for assessing the quality of education was the data on the assessment of the regions of Russia in terms of the quality of education, presented by Federal Education and Science Supervision Service [4]. We used the data from four indicators related to the “Learning Outcomes” dimension: 1) achievement of the minimum level of training; 2) achieving a high level of training; 3) educational equity; and 4) functional literacy. For the purposes of the study, an integral assessment of the quality of education in the field of learning outcomes in school (arithmetic mean) was calculated. The final indicator reflects the assessment of the region in the field of learning outcomes at school according to Federal Education and Science Supervision Service.

As a control variable, we used the “Rating of the socio-economic situation of the regions for 2020”, compiled by the experts of the agency “RIA rating” according to the Ministry of Finance of Russia, the Federal Treasury and Federal Service of State Statistics [5]. The methodology is based on the aggregation of various indicators characterizing socio-economic situation of the regions. The need to consider socio-economic situation of the regions was explained by our hypothesis and is related to the fact that this indicator is closely related to the quality of the education system and should be accounted for when calculating the impact of children of foreign citizens ratio.

Using the data described above, we analyzed the relationship between the ratio of students of foreign citizens in the region, the number of comprehensive education institutions with a different ratio of students of foreign citizens in the region, and the assessment of the quality of education in the field of learning outcomes at school. When constructing the regression model, we used numerical data (integral rating) from the “Rating of the socio-economic situation of regions for 2020” as a control variable.

Research Results

In accordance with the data of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation [6], at the beginning of the 2021/22 academic year, a total of 17,317,521 schoolchildren studied in comprehensive educational organizations in the country, of which 124,057 have foreign citizenship (of which 4,047 have two or more citizenships), stateless students — 2,277 people. Consequently, the overall ratio of the quantity of foreign citizens and citizens of the Russian Federation learning together is 0.7%.

To identify the relationship between the studied variables, statistical analysis was carried out with the calculation of the Pearson correlation coefficient (the results are presented in Table 1). According to the data, there is a weak positive relationship between the ratio of foreign children studying in the region and the region’s assessment of the quality of education, which reflects the results of schooling.

The number of educational institutions with the following ratio of the quantity of foreign students studying in the region 1—3%, 3—10% and 10—20% also demonstrates a positive relationship with the quality of education in the region.

A correlation similar to the ratio of children of foreign citizens in terms of strength and reliability is observed between the scores of the Rating of the Socio-Economic Situation of the Regions and the assessment of the region in terms of the quality of education.

Thus, regions in which foreign students are more represented, where educational organizations with a ratio of foreign students from 1% to 20% are more represented, according to Federal Education and Science Supervision Service, demonstrate higher learning outcomes in school.

It should be noted that, both with the assessment of the regions in terms of the quality of education by Federal Education and Science Supervision Service, and with the ratio of foreign students studying in educational institutions, indicators of socio-economic development of the region are also significantly related. The higher this indicator, the higher the results in the field of learning outcomes at school that are shown by the region according to Federal Education and Science Supervision Service, and the more foreign students are represented in it.

To test the relationship of these variables, we used multivariate regression analysis, where the dependent variable was the assessment of the regions in terms of the quality of education by Federal Education and Science Supervision Service.

The independent variables were:

a) the ratio of the number of foreign students studying in educational institutions with a total number of students in the region;

b) socio-economic development of the region index.

Data on the number of educational institutions with different ratios of the number of foreign students in the region were not used in the regression analysis to prevent multicollinearity.

Initially, the ratio of the number of foreign students studying in educational institutions to the total number of students in the region was introduced into the regression model as predictors.

The model was found to be significant (p≤0.01). The ratio of the number of foreign citizens studying in comprehensive educational institutions to the total number of students in the region acted as a predictor of the quality of education in the region (p ≤0.01).

At the second step, the socio-economic development of the region index was introduced into the model. The volume of the explained variance of the model increased more, its significance also increased (p ≤0.001), and the relationship between the ratio of foreign students studying and the assessment of the quality of education disappeared.

As a result, the predictor of the assessment of the region in terms of the quality of education in the regions of the Russian Federation in terms of the quality of education of Federal Education and Science Supervision Service (in terms of learning outcomes at school) was the index of socio-economic development of the region.

Table 1

Correlations between the socio-economic situation of the regions,
ratio of children of foreign citizens, number of educational institutions (EIs)
with a different ratio of children of foreign citizens and the assessment
of the quality of education in the region

Evaluation of the region in terms of the quality of education: learning outcomes at school

Rating of the socio-economic situation of the regions

Rating of the socio-economic situation of the regions

0.367**

1

The ratio of children of foreign citizens in the region

0.324**

0.535**

The total number of educational institutions with the ratio of the number of foreign students studying 1—3%

0.281*

0.603**

The total number of educational institutions with the ratio of the number of foreign students studying 3—10%

0.336**

0.447**

The total number of educational institutions with the ratio of the number of foreign students studying 10—20%

0.292**

0.423**

The total number of educational institutions with the ratio of the number of foreign students studying 20—50%

0.050

0.269*

The total number of educational institutions with the ratio of the number of foreign students studying more than 50%

-0.251

-0.001

Note. *p≤0.05; **p≤0.01.

Table 2

The ratio of children of foreign citizens and socio-economic development
of the region as predictors of the assessment of the region in terms of the quality
of education (outcomes of schooling)

β

Step 1.

The ratio of the number of foreign citizens studying in comprehensive educational institutions to the total number of students in the region.

R2

F

0.10

9.60**

0.32 **

Step 2.

The ratio of the number of foreign citizens studying in general educational institutions to the total number of students in the region.

Index of socio-economic development of the region.

R2

∆R2

F

0.16

0.06

7.58***

0.18

0.27*

Note. *p≤0.05; **p≤0.01; ***p≤0.001.

Discussion of the Results

In general, the results show the existence of a relationship between the ratio of migrant students and the quality of education, and the relationship is positive. This relationship is also reflected in the number of educational institutions in the region with the ratio of children of foreign citizens from 3 to 50%. The absence of this connection for schools where there are more than 20% of migrant children is most likely due to their small number in most regions.

As statistical analysis shows, the reason for the direct relationship between the number of migrants and the quality of education is not the influence of migrant children, but the desire of their parents for economic well-being and the logic of migration planning. Parents of migrant children obviously plan to migrate mainly to the most economically developed subjects of the Russian Federation. The same regions predictably demonstrate a higher assessment of the quality of school education. Moreover, the presence of migrant children does not have any effect on the results of the region in the field of schooling.

Our results are consistent with PISA data showing that it is the concentration of socio-economic disadvantages in schools that hinders student achievement, and the concentration of immigrant students in schools is not important as such.

We can say that the negative factor is the concentration of socio-economic inequality in the local educational environment, and not the concentration of migrants. Studies show that, compared with their host culture peers, migrant students are more likely to attend urban schools and schools with higher concentrations of students with low socio-economic status and higher student-teacher ratios [19].

This is consistent with local studies of individual countries. For example, in Portugal it was found [20] that the influence of school social composition is more important for student achievement than the influence of school ethnic composition, and that students from Portuguese-speaking African countries benefit more than other students in terms of academic performance when they attend schools with higher socioeconomic level of students. In the Netherlands, it has been shown that the concentration of migrant classmates with a low level of parental education negatively affects the performance of local residents in host country language, while no such effect was found for migrant children with a high level of parental education [9].

Boado [8] makes an important methodological adjustment to this issue. If it is assumed that the distribution of migrant schoolchildren across social spaces is a random process, then the results confirm the negative impact of their concentration on academic performance. If, on the contrary, the result of mechanisms for sorting students into school districts are considered, then available evidence suggests that the concentration of migrant children does not have statistically significant effect on the performance of classmates.

Analyzing the issues of resettlement of migrants in Russia, sociologists note that “if skilled migrants, considered by society as potential citizens, with rare exceptions, are settled evenly throughout the city, in accordance with ethnic quotas for houses and districts, temporary migrants mostly live separately — in old districts, and also in special migrant hostels placed on the urban periphery” [2, p. 499].

Thus, the territorial segregation of migrant families inevitably ensures their unequal sorting by educational institutions. Moreover, a child from a migrant family is more likely to attend a school with poor educational outcomes.

Conclusions

The ratio of the number of migrants (foreign citizens) studying in Russia to students with the Russian citizenship in comprehensive education institutions is not related to the quality of education in the region, considering the socioeconomic situation in the region.

This result corresponds to the main trends of international studies and allows us to state that the number of migrant students in an educational institution cannot be considered as a factor of educational achievements of host society students; whereas social and economic situation of the family should be considered as such a factor.

It is also important to take into account that the concentration of migrant children in schools is the result of a concentration of adverse conditions, i.e., the result, not the cause, of underperformance.

Thus, we can conclude that the concentration of migrant children in an educational institution should not act as a significant marker of educational policy in this area.

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Information About the Authors

Oleg E. Khukhlaev, PhD in Psychology, Assistant Professor, Professor of the Department of Ethnopsychology and Psychological Problems in Multicultural Education, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4620-9534, e-mail: huhlaevoe@mgppu.ru

Marina Y. Chibisova, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Chair of Social Pedagogy and Psychology, Faculty of Pedagogics and Psychology, Moscow Pedagogical State University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8174-6001, e-mail: marina_jurievna@mail.ru