Academic success of allophone students

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Research Briefs

Allophone students tend to have more academic success

Recent research shows that allophone students in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, graduate more or less as other students but, when their personal characteristics are controlled, they tend to have more academic success, especially in Vancouver.

In a 2013 paper published in Canadian Studies in Population, Jacques Ledent of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique and his Canadian colleagues analyzed provincial and local data on school achievement in Canada’s three major immigrant-destination cities.

The study compared the academic achievements of students who do not use the language of schooling at home (English in Toronto and Vancouver, and French in Montreal) to the achievements of those who do use it. The study designates the former group of students as allophones.  

Data from all three cities indicated that these allophone students have higher odds of graduating from secondary school than other students. For instance, allophone students in Vancouver are more than twice as likely as English-speaking students to graduate. In Toronto, they are 1.35 times more likely. Lastly, allophones in Montreal are 1.39 times more likely than French speakers to graduate.

Data also showed that allophones tend to have relatively high rates of participation in college or university-bound courses. This result particularly holds in Vancouver, where allophones are nearly three times more likely to take these courses than English-speaking students.   

However, the study found that there are substantial differences in these odds when data are separated by linguistic subgroup. For example, while Chinese-speaking students consistently outperform their English or French-speaking counterparts, Spanish, Portuguese, and Creole subgroups tend to have rates of academic success far below those of other students.             

Due to the differences in results for linguistic subgroups, Ledent and his colleagues state that a “one size fits all” policy for immigrant origin students is not evidence-based.  

“When it comes to developing services aimed at easing the integration of students with an immigrant origin in our schools, decision-makers should avoid viewing those students as a uniform whole and instead devise programs that are tailored to specific subgroups”, Ledent explains.  

The study also examined which variables consistently influence the academic successes of allophones in the Canadian school system. It discovered that the most significant positive factors on their achievement are 1) entering school early or on time, age-wise, 2) remaining in the same school rather than changing schools, and 3) attending private schools.

A summary of the study can be found at the Population Change and Lifecourse Cluster Research Brief: Academic Performance and Educational Pathways of Allophone Youth: A Comparative Analysis of Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver

For further information, please contact Jacques Ledent, Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS)

For the INRS news on this study, see: Les élèves allophones du Canada affichent une meilleure réussite scolaire

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