Friday, February 18

Ethnic Enclaves in the classroom

So the fact that minorities and immigrants prefer to live in their own enclaves is well known. This has a positive effect insofar as helping avoid the racism and discrimination they might fare in a heterogeneous enclave versus a negative effect where they do not adopt or adapt host country cultures or attain language proficiency. This behaviour is shown in every country and this can also be due to in country migration patterns as well, such as linguistic group enclaves or state enclaves, etc. But what happens to their children who are in a government secular school where presumably this impact would be reduced>?

A good paper caught my eye. Quote the abstract:

We use data on elementary-school students to investigate how the home language and other characteristics of a student's same-grade schoolmates influence that student's academic achievement. We exploit the availability of multiple cohorts of data within each school to control for endogenous selection by incorporating school fixed effects in the model. We also exploit the longitudinal structure of the data to estimate value-added models of the educational production function. We find that attending an “enclave” school provides a slight net benefit to Chinese home-language students and a large net cost to Punjabi home-language students. The results are consistent with a simple peer effects mechanism in which the academic achievement or behavior of peers is much more important than their home language.

I am not going to bore you with the statistics, but concentrate on the results. What this canadian study finds is that students who speak Punjabi at home have a strong negative association with math test scores while Chinese home language peers have a weak positive association with math scores. How curious, cultural factors? Linguistic factors? The study doesn't say this and their explanation is weak. They also reference similar results achieved by studying Black students in the USA. So linguistic factors are of lower importance compared to cultural factors. The authors also refer to another study that Punjabi youth in British Columbia, Canada have an oppositional sub culture and negative attitudes about academic work. No wonder their math scores are so crap, compared to the Chinese culture based students. Very un-pc, but I am reminded of the furore about the Chinese mother recently.

Well, here you go, some data points behind this debate, and lends some credence towards the fact that school achievement has some links with the culture you belong to.

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