Migrants’ Educational Choices : Evidence from Upper Secondary Education in Germany and Switzerland

Faculty/Professorship: Fakultät Sozial- und Wirtschaftswissenschaften: Abschlussarbeiten ; Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS)  
Author(s): Tjaden, Jasper Dag
Publisher Information: Bamberg : opus
Year of publication: 2017
Pages: viii, 191 ; Illustrationen, Diagramme, Karten
Supervisor(s): Kristen, Cornelia  ; Schindler, Steffen  
Language(s): English
Kumulative Dissertation, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, 2017
Licence: German Act on Copyright 
URN: urn:nbn:de:bvb:473-opus4-494496
In many European societies, migrant students are disadvantaged in terms of their educational achievements (i.e., grades, school placements, competencies) and attainment (i.e., formal qualifications, degrees). However, students with ethnic or migrant backgrounds have also been found to make more ambitious educational choices compared to non-immigrant students with similar backgrounds. In some EU countries, migrant students are more likely than non-migrant students to pursue pathways leading towards university. This phenomenon is referred to as the ‘educational ethnic choice effect’.
Most of the evidence on ‘ethnic choice effects’ is based on studies in comprehensive education systems with weak vocational alternatives, such as the UK, Sweden, Finland, and the US. It remains unclear whether these choice effects apply in Germany and Switzerland – countries with strong vocational education and training (VET) systems at the upper secondary level. In addition, little is known about why migrant students make different choices.
Individual choices at specific branching points in the educational career can have substantial implications for subsequent educational attainment, future labor market outcomes and life opportunities more generally. Understanding the decision-making processes among migrant families also contributes to unpacking mechanisms driving ethnic educational inequality and may inform policy-makers.
Presenting quantitative analyses based on rich, longitudinal survey data from Germany (NEPS) and Switzerland (TREE), this dissertation makes two key contributions to the literature on ethnic educational inequality.
First, the presented research found that when students have a choice at the end of compulsory school in Germany and Switzerland, students of migrant or ethnic origins are more likely to choose educational pathways that lead more directly towards university, and they are less likely to pursue VET compared to students without ethnic or migrant backgrounds. The analysis suggests that self-selection processes help explain lower transition rates to VET for migrant students compared to non-migrant youth. The fact that ethnic choice effects apply in Germany and Switzerland further supports the notion that ethnic choice effects, indeed, constitute a universal phenomenon that is not sensitive to the particular structure of the education system.
Second, findings of this research support the notion that ambitious educational choices among migrant populations should be understood in a broader context of immigration as an inter-generational mobility project. Immigration is often motivated by aspirations for upward social mobility and the desire to provide a better life for children. Education can be seen as the main channel for upward mobility. As a result, migrants’ high educational aspirations are transferred to children and generate strong family norms, particularly when success among the parental generation has been slow.
In contrast to much discussion in the literature, the findings neither support the claim that migrant students make different choices because they lack—or have biased—information about the education system nor that they invest in further education to avoid discrimination in the VET market.
This research has several implications for research and policy in the field. Scholars must account for systematic differences in educational decision-making processes between migrant and non-migrant populations when attempting to explain ethnic educational inequality, particularly regarding selection effects in access to VET. Policies that target educational participation of minority groups should take into account deep-seated norms among ethnic minorities and target migrant parents, in particular. Initiatives to attract migrant students to VET programs should highlight the potential of VET for labor market integration and upward mobility, as well as, emphasizing increasing links between vocational and additional academic education at later stages (e.g., ‘upgrading’).
GND Keywords: Deutschland; Schweiz; Weiterführende Schule; Schüler; Einwanderer; Schulwahl
Keywords: Ethnic Inequality, Vocational Training and Education, Educational Choices, Germany, Switzerland
DDC Classification: 300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology  
370 Education  
RVK Classification: DO 9001     MS 7300     DO 9000     DO 9006   
Type: Doctoralthesis
URI: https://fis.uni-bamberg.de/handle/uniba/42068
Year of publication: 21. July 2017

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