Schnell, Philipp; Gruber, Oliver
In: Demers, Matthieu (Ed.). Immigrant Children: Perspectives, Challenges and Educational Implication. New York: IN PRESS
Publication year: 2020

This chapter examines the academic achievements and educational trajectories of the children of immigrants in Austria. During the Cold War era, Austria’s immigration patterns were shaped by refugee movements and guest worker migration. Since the millennium, EU-internal migration has become the largest source of immigration. As a result, the immigrant population numbers in Austria have risen to 17%, with an increasing number of immigrant children entering Austrian schools today. The educational opportunities available to the children of immigrants as well as their school performance are often regarded as the ‘litmus test’ not just for integration, but for the success or failure of policies in this field. In particular, the experiences of second-generation pupils may provide a clearer indication of the long-term prospects for integration than those of first-generation immigrants.

To shed light on this connection, this chapter provides an empirical study using data from the Austrian standardized national survey in education (Bildungsstandardüberprüfung BIST 2012/2013). This complete survey contains information on standardized test scores in Mathematics and English (grade 8), as well as relevant background details on educational trajectories from pre-school to secondary education. Moreover, the survey allows for a comprehensive analysis of academic achievements and educational trajectories of the children of immigrants from 18 different ethnic origin groups.

Our findings reveal large educational achievement gaps between children of immigrants and native-born children. However, the size of these educational achievement gaps varies substantially along ethnic lines. The drawbacks faced by most descendants of immigrants in Austria are due to fewer educational, economic and material resources being available to them. This supports findings from many European countries that are traditionally commonly sources of immigrants to Austria, where a lack of educational resources in the family explains large parts of the educational disadvantages of immigrant pupils. It also confirms the variety in outcomes across ethnic groups based on their heterogeneous socioeconomic status. In addition, our findings provide empirical evidence for the significant role of the school system in influencing pupils’ educational opportunities: tracking and early selection, as well as an allocation system favoring school segregation together contributing to the consolidation of (ethnic) educational disadvantages in Austria.

Based on the findings of our research, we draw practical inferences about the amelioration of existing inequalities affecting the impact of the current school system. They provide the basis for the chapter’s concluding recommendations.