Culture, migration and educational performance: a focus on gender outcomes using Australian PISA tests

Abstract

This paper explores how cultural and migrant backgrounds affect boys’ and girls’ high-school academic performance. Scores from the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment are analysed for Australian children from migrant and non-migrant families, conditional upon a measure of gender equity in secondary education in their country of ancestry. Australia is a particularly pertinent case study as it has the third highest migrant (foreign-born) proportion among OECD countries (27.4% of population). We find that children from migrant backgrounds affording lower schooling access to children of their own gender achieve lower scores on PISA reading, mathematics and science tests. This holds when the sample is restricted to children born in Australia, providing strong evidence that the effect is cultural, with further analysis showing this effect to be more pronounced for boys.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    An R2 of around 0.20 appears reasonable in the context of existing studies modelling PISA test scores. Models reported in Dronkers and Kornder (2014) and Nollenberger et al. (2016), for example, achieve R2 values ranging between 0.30 and 0.40 despite the inclusion of a large number of dummy variables capturing source- and destination-country effects that could not be included given our research design. Entorf and Minoiu (2005) report R2 values of around 0.10 for within-country models.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the valuable role of anonymous referees in prompting a fuller consideration of migrant selection effects in our analyses.

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Correspondence to Paul Koshy.

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Dockery, A.M., Koshy, P. & Li, I.W. Culture, migration and educational performance: a focus on gender outcomes using Australian PISA tests. Aust. Educ. Res. 47, 39–59 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-019-00321-7

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Keywords

  • Migrants
  • Culture
  • Academic performance
  • PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment)
  • Gender