Formally speaking, integration works in the schools in Austria. Pupils who were already born in Austria do better than pupils who have been in Austria for a relatively short time. However, there are still more at-risk pupils among children and young people with foreign roots, who rarely complete school successfully.
In 2021, there were 259,000 young people in Austria with a migration history, which is 28 percent of the country’s 15 to 24-year-olds, according to a study by sociologist Johann Bacher presented on Tuesday. That is why, according to Bacher, it is also important for their integration that they have the same school opportunities as pupils without a migration background.
Formally, things look pretty good in Austria: there are no differences in the share of young people who remain in the education system after the end of compulsory education, depending on their origin. Students with a migration background are “formally well integrated in that regard,” Bacher said at an online press conference of “Diskurs. The Science Network.”
Influencing factor: parental education
However, according to the evaluation of the microcount, this group still has more early school leavers with a maximum compulsory education diploma (without a migration background: 4.7 percent; 2nd generation – parents born abroad: 8.0; 1st generation – born abroad : 9.5). According to Bacher, this is mainly due to the lower education of the parents of pupils with a migration background.
At the same time, slightly more pupils without a migration background are attending or have completed secondary school with a final diploma. Young people without a migration background are also more likely to do an internship or successfully complete it. According to Bacher, the apprenticeship system was very well received by young people with a migration background, and among those with roots in Turkey or the former Yugoslavia, the share of apprentices was more than 20 percent.
If you only compare students whose parents have the same level of education, there is no difference between students without a migration background and students of the second generation.
“So the integration succeeded for the majority,” says Bacher. At the same time, however, we know from national and international educational studies that there are still many high-risk students in this group. In addition, young people with a migrant background would stay in the Austrian school system for a long time, but also more often end their educational career or, because they did not meet the learning requirements, have to transfer to types of school with a lower qualification in a “career down”.
Negative consequences of Corona
According to Bacher’s evaluations, the corona pandemic has had a clear negative effect on young people born abroad: the share of school leavers has increased, the number of people who remain in the system after compulsory education or who enter school with a high school diploma has fallen. The sociologist attributes the generally poorer values of the first generation to the fact that these young people have been in Austria for a shorter period of time and therefore have had fewer opportunities to learn a language, for example.
According to Bacher, the group of high-risk students in particular needs better support due to a change in the preconditions. Good levers, he believes, are earlier entry into kindergarten and more daytime education for more social contacts, later selection of pupils, more money for schools with a particularly large number of pupils with special needs and a tightening of the programs for school leavers. Raising the age limit would make sense here.