Inclusion or Discrimination? From the analysis of school scores to the strategies for the success of immigrant students
News | 05 May 2022 Inclusion or Discrimination? From the analysis of school scores to the strategies for the success of immigrant students

The project “Inclusion or discrimination?”, promoted by the EPIS Association – Entrepreneurs for Social Inclusion in partnership with Nova SBE and CICS.NOVA, analysed the educational results of immigrant students enrolled in the 9th grade in public schools in mainland Portugal. The Nova SBE researchers in the project were Luís Catela Nunes (coordinator), João Firmino, Gonçalo Lima, and José Mesquita Gabriel.

One of the main conclusions reached was that, in general, immigrant students have repeated a grade more often and have worse grades when compared to native Portuguese students, a gap that is more pronounced for students from Portuguese-speaking African countries and Brazil.

Analysing the educational path of students who in 2016/2017 were enrolled in the 9th grade, it was possible to identify that many of the performance gaps already occurred in the 6th grade, or even earlier in the 1st cycle of studies. Given that the differences between native and non-native students originate at the beginning of the school path, are hard to recover, and tend to increase over time, the results highlight the priority that schools and the community in general should give to early interventions aimed at identifying and addressing the educational challenges faced by immigrant students.

It was also concluded that students with different nationalities and immigrant origins have a greater propensity to embark on vocational education in secondary education, which also raises the need for a reflection on the future of these students, both in academic and professional terms.

A segregation index was calculated for 404 public schools in mainland Portugal, which made it possible to assess how each school allocated the immigrant students to the different classes. It was found that in about a third of the schools, there was a tendency for immigrant students to be grouped together in the same classes. The highest segregation values were found in schools closer to the coast and, especially, in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area.

This phenomenon of within-school segregation could be the result of those schools using, as one of the criteria for forming classes, the homogeneity of student ability in each class. Because immigrant students have, on average, obtained worse previous grades, this creates a tendency for them to be allocated to the classes with lower average achievement. The concentration of students in certain classes, to the detriment of others, ends up reproducing in schools a social phenomenon often associated with residential segregation. However, segregation within each school is something that schools can easily manage and mitigate, and without spending human or financial resources.

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Expresso, Diário de Notícias, TSF, Folha de S. Paulo, among others.

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