Children of non-migrant parents have a significant advantage over children of migrant parents when it comes to educational achoievement and ambition, a major study undertaken at NUI Galway has revealed. In the study, the Population and Migration research cluster at the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway has identified an emerging achievement gap between young migrants and their non-migrant peers, which will result in a significant under-representation in third-level institutions.
The Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway is the largest national research Institute focused on business, social and public policy issues. The Institute’s upcoming publication Impact Insights, offers a succinct overview of the research being conducted there.
Several studies carried out by the group encompass the ‘new Irish’- the children of immigrants - and the ease, or otherwise, with which they have integrated into Irish society. Research projects completed and in progress include studies of Brazilian immigration to Ireland, youth workers, second generation return migration, advocacy on behalf of immigrant groups and contributions to improved policy design.
In particular, the work of Dr Valerie Ledwith and Dr Kathy Reilly from the School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway examines the educational outcomes and experiences of young migrants in second level education in Galway City and urban-rural fringe. Funded by the Irish Research Council and the European Commission, The Galway Education Survey looked into how variables such as neighbourhood, school and home environment affect the educational outcomes and experiences of young migrants in second level education.
— 66.7 per cent non migrants and 56.2 per cent of all migrants plan to attend University – this 10 per cent difference found that similar proportions of non migrant students plan to attend university but migrant students are less likely to realise their aspiration.
— Non migrants are twice as likely to sit Higher level Maths than Irish born children of foreign born parents.
— Non migrants are 2.25 times more likely to sit Higher level Science than Irish born children of foreign born parents.
Their work highlights the inequality of access for migrant students as a result of current school attendance policies that make it easier for long-term Irish national residents to access schools because of the use of sibling or family as past pupil clauses in reaching enrolment decisions.
Furthermore, their research draws attention to the link between these enrolment practices and the emerging achievement gap between young migrants and their non-migrant peers. The research also shows that young migrants are less likely to take Junior Certificate subjects at Higher Level, which restricts the student to sitting that subject at Ordinary Level for the Leaving Certificate. This directly limits the number of points students can achieve. Without a change to the current points system, these results suggest that young migrants will be under-represented within third level education.
Dr. Valerie Ledwith stated, “In general, the results of our research suggest that an achievement gap is emerging between young migrants and non-migrants in Ireland. Moreover, this achievement gap is linked to enrolment practices that constrain the school choices available to young migrants.”
Dr. Ledwith continued, “This research arose from our concern with the potential emergence of a two-tier education system in Ireland. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that this is the case, with a clearly apparent achievement gap between young migrants and their non-migrant peers. “