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Old EU states trail in immigrant education-study

Written by: Staff

BRUSSELS, May 15 (Reuters) The old member states of the European Union do far worse than countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada at educating immigrant children to give them equal portunities, a report published today shows.

The study ''Where immigrant students succeed'' shows that children born abroad or to immigrant parents underperform most compared to native-born students in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Against a backdrop of last year's riots in France's poor high-rise suburbs and high youth unemployment across Western Europe, the survey examines the role of education in the success and failure to integrate immigrant children.

Produced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it says language support in schools is the key differentiator between countries that succeed in integrating immigrant students and those that fail.

Based on the authoritative 2003 PISA study of education, it says that in a majority of the 30-nation OECD's highly developed member states, at least one immigrant student in four leaves school without basic mathemetical skills.

''These individuals could face considerable challenges in their future professional and personal lives,'' it says.

Germany emerges worst of the 17 countries studied in detail.

Some 40 per cent of second-generation immigrant children leave school without baseline proficiency in mathematics.

Sweden emerges best among West European states for its success rates in reducing educational inequality between second-general immigrant children and the native population.

The report says immigrant children are highly motivated learners and, contrary to common assumptions, high levels of immigration do not necessarily impair integration.

Educational and socio-economic background only partially explain the differences in achievement of immigrants, it says.

The countries that do best are those with well established language support programmes in schools with explicit curricula and standards and supplementary classes targeted at first and second-generation immigrants, the study concludes.

Reuters SHB BST1557

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