31 SES 15 A, Cross-national and International erspectives on Migrant Family-Language Practices and Literacy Investment
In European classrooms, there is a growing number of students with migrant origins coming from a variety of linguistic backgrounds. In many countries, there is also a growing concern regarding learning outcomes, well-being and integration of these students, and relatively little is still known about the factors underlying the migrant penalties (Borgna, 2017).
There are many studies indicating that nurturing students’ first languages has a significant effect on their learning of other languages and subjects at school (see e.g. Agirdag, & Vanlaar, 2018; Cummins 2001; Ganuza & Hedman 2018; Ovando & Combs 2011). Students who use mainly their first language with their parents have higher academic outcomes than those immigrant background students that speak mostly the language of instruction with their parents, although there is a statistically significant difference only in relation to the language spoken with the father (Agirdag, & Vanlaar, 2018).
Speaking a language other than the language of instruction at home is not, nevertheless, without challenges. The challenges the students face at school are greater when the distance between the first language and the language of instruction is wider (Borgonovi & Ferrara 2020; Floccia, et al., 2018). The negative effect is even stronger, if the student has arrived in the host country at the age of 12 or later, if the students have higher SES or if the school system has an early stratification system (Borgonovi & Ferrara 2020). However, using a language other than the language of instruction per se does not prevent students from learning the language of instruction or result in worse learning outcomes (Strobel 2016). On the contrary, strong first language skills benefit the learning of the language of instruction as well as other subjects (Cummins, 2001; Ganuza & Hedman, 2018).
Being part of a group is a basic need for human beings, and the feeling of belonging can be determined as acceptance as a member of a group (Lambert et al., 2013). Further, the feeling of belonging is a significant factor for positive integration to the host country, but also for an individual’s wellbeing as well as a range of outcomes related to school achievement (Allen et al., 2018). A school climate that creates a feeling of belonging as well as a sense of being respected and listened to, supports individual students’ wellbeing (Anderson & Graham, 2016).
At the heart of this research is the role of language in integration processes. Language spoken at home by immigrants and their children has been used as both a measure of integration as well as a predictor of integration. Nevertheless, the relationship between language spoken at home and other dimensions of integration remains poorly understood. There is major contestation in whether continuing to speak the parents’ language of origin (first language / L1) is beneficial or actually detrimental for other outcomes related to integration.
In order to study this question cross-nationally, this research focuses on two immigrant-origin groups that are present in significant numbers in a variety of European countries: children of immigrants with origins in Turkey and former Yugoslavian countries. These two groups have also been identified as being at a major educational disadvantage in a number of European countries (e.g., Crul, 2013; Schnell & Fibbi 2016).
The research is carried out using the most recent wave of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA 2018) in the following OECD countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. These countries have sufficiently detailed information about the students’ and their parents’ countries of birth as well as the language spoken at home to be able to analyze language use patterns. In addition, they have large enough numbers of students with origins in Former Yugoslavia and Turkey to enable meaningful analyses. We select students for whom either the mother or the father was born in the Former Yugoslavia (defined slightly differently in different countries but we aim to take all students born in the Balkans) or in Turkey. These students are divided into three groups: 1) those who mainly speak the L1 at home with both parents, 2) those who speak a mixture of L1 and L2 with their parents, and 3) those who mainly (or only) speak the L2 at home with their parents. This is based on separate questions about how much students use different languages with their mother and father. Other children of immigrants have been dropped from the analyses but majority youngsters are kept as a comparison group. Our dependent variables are sense of belonging to school, resilience, reading scores, and expectation to complete university-level education (ISCED 5A or 6). Our control variables are gender, student’s grade in comparison with the modal grade for 15 year-olds in the respective countries, mixed heritage parents, and age at arrival for the first generation. In the second step of the analyses we add parental SES (index of economic, social and cultural status). For the analysis of educational expectations we also control for test scores in an additional model. We use linear regression models that are run separately by country. We take into account the stratification of the sample by using the recommended weighting procedure from the OECD. For analyses of reading scores, we run the models with the ten plausible values and replicate weights.
Our results indicate that for sense of belonging to school and resilience, there are no differences between language groups. The only exception is Belgium, where switching to L2 is associated with higher sense of belonging to school. For reading, switching to the L2 is associated with higher reading scores in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland – with no difference in Denmark or Luxembourg. However, the difference between language groups is to some extent explained by parental SES and after controlling for this, it remains statistically significant in Austria and Germany although the difference in Belgium and Switzerland is relatively similar in magnitude to that in Austria (15–20 PISA points, almost equivalent to the gender difference), the difference being the largest in Germany. Germany is also the only country in which any language group outperforms the majority students (after controlling for SES) – though the difference between those who have switched to L2 and the majority is also very small in Belgium. With regard to educational expectations, there are no differences between the language groups, except in Switzerland where those who have switched to L2 are more likely to expect to attend university than those who mostly speak the L1 at home. However, this difference is explained by parental SES. Controlling for test scores also does not bring out any statistically significant differences between language groups. To conclude our results, in most cases the pattern of language use at home is not systematically associated with measures of belonging to school, resilience or educational expectations. However, in a number of countries mostly speaking the language of destination at home is associated with higher reading scores. Nevertheless, in most countries switching languages does not bring these groups of children of immigrants on a par with their majority peers in terms of reading scores.
Agirdag, O. & Vanlaar, G. (2018). Does more exposure to the language of instruction lead to higher academic achievement? A cross-national examination. International Journal of Bilingualism, 22:1, 123–37. Allen, K., Kern, M. L., Vella-Brodrick, D., Hattie, J., & Waters, L. (2018). What Schools Need to Know About Fostering School Belonging: a Meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 30, 1–34. doi: 10.1007/s10648-016-9389-8. Anderson, D. L., & Graham, A. P. (2016). Improving student wellbeing: Having a say at school. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 27(3), 348–366. doi:10.1080/09243453.2015.1084336 Borgna, C. (2017). Migrant Penalties in Educational Achievement. Second-generation Immigrants on Western Europe. Amsterdam University Press. Borgonovi, F., & Ferrara, A. (2020). Academic achievement and sense of belonging among non-native-speaking immigrant students: The role of linguistic distance. Learning and Individual Differences, 81, 101911. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2020.101911 Crul, M. (2013). Snakes and Ladders in Educational Systems: Access to Higher Education for Second-Generation Turks in Europe, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 39(9), 1383–1401. doi: 10.1080/1369183X.2013.815388 Cummins, J. (2001). Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: California Association for Bilingual Education. Eccles, J. S., & Roeser, R. W. (2011). Schools as developmental contexts during adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 225–241. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00725.x Floccia, Caroline, Sambrook, Thomas D., Delle Luche, Claire, Kwok, Rosa, Goslin, Jeremy, White, Laurence, Cattani, Allegra, Sullivan, Emily, Abbot-Smith, Kirsten, Krott, Andrea, Mills, Debbie, Rowland, Caroline, Gervain, Judit & Plunkett, Kim (2018). “Vocabulary of 2‐Year‐Olds Learning English and an Additional Language: Norms and Effects of Linguistic Distance”. Society for research in child development Ganuza, N. & Hedman, C. (2018). ”Modersmålundervisning, läsförståelse och betyg.” Nordand 13(1),4–22. Lambert, N. A., Stillman, T. F., Hicks, J. A., Kamble, S., Baumeister, R. F. & Fincham, F. D. 2013. To Belong Is to Matter: Sense of Belonging Enhances Meaning in Life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39:11, s. 1418–1427. Ovando, C. J. & Combs, M. C. (2011). Bilingual and ESL Classroom: Teaching in Multicultural Contexts (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education. Schnell, P., & Fibbi, R. (2016). Getting Ahead: Educational and Occupational Trajectories of the ‘New’ Second-Generation in Switzerland. International Migration & Integration 17, 1085–1107. doi: 10.1007/s12134-015-0452-y Strobel, B. (2016). “Does family language matter? The role of foreign language use and family social capital in the educational achievement of immigrant students in Germany.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 39(14), 2641–2663.
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