1Early school leaving is one of the main problems in education in Spain, and it has a greater impact among students from disadvantaged groups (with the rate rising to 35.7% for immigrants versus 14.7% for native pupils in 2019).
2Remedial education programmes aim to improve the results of students originating from disadvantaged backgrounds and whose academic performance is poor: the schools that run them have higher numbers of pupils who are repeaters and of immigrants, lower education levels among parents, and low socioeconomic levels among families.
3Remedial education programmes run at primary schools in Madrid are only beneficial for immigrant pupils if the total proportion of immigrants in the participating groups is not very high.
Early school leaving, in other words, leaving school when compulsory education ends, is one of the most serious problems faced by Spain’s education system, with rates high above the European Union average (17.3 versus 10.1 in 2019). Academic failure and repeater rates are also significant and among the highest in Europe. Children from the poorest families are among those most affected: their probabilities of continuing to study after compulsory education are lower, which means higher probabilities of their being poor as adults. In these environments especially, school leaving is very much related with poor academic performance.
Among these underprivileged groups (in a situation of economic disadvantage), it is important to mention immigrant children who obtain, on average, worse academic results than native children, although not all immigrant children are in this situation. First-generation immigrant children display a worse knowledge of Spanish, with consequent difficulties in all subjects. One way of tackling these poorer academic results among young people with limited resources is through specialised programmes known as remedial education programmes. International experience, above all in the United States and in some European countries, such as the United Kingdom (Jacob and Lefgren, 2004; Holmlund and Silva, 2014) and also national one aimed to secondary school students (García-Pérez e Hidalgo, Hidalgo, 2017; Battaglia e Hidalgo-Hidalgo, 2020) shows us that these programmes are effective.
The aim of this article is to provide new evidence on the impact of these interventions. To do so, it analyses two programmes implemented successively in the Madrid region: the School Accompaniment Programme (2005-2012) and the School Accompaniment and Support Programme (2012-2020), which offer remedial education to students with poor performance and from disadvantaged socioeconomic environments at state-funded primary schools. The database used is composed of the universe of schools from the Community of Madrid.
1. School results of immigrant and native pupils
Conducting this study entailed use of both the identification of schools that participated in the remedial education programmes, and the results of external evaluations (established by the LOMCE) conducted at all schools, specifically among pupils in Years 3 and 6 (8 and 11 years of age respectively). Between the academic years 2015-16 and 2018-19, close to 153,700 pupils from Year 3 and 140,600 pupils from Year 6 originating from 794 schools were assessed. To find out the possible differences in results between immigrant and native pupils, the results of these external tests were used. The grades in Mathematics and Language are higher for native pupils than for immigrant pupils. The differences between the two in Mathematics range from 0.5 points in Year 3 of Primary Education to 0.3 points in Year 6 of Primary; in Language, the difference stands at 0.6 points and is maintained between Year 3 and Year 6.
2. Remedial education programme: Which schools and pupils are participating?
This study focuses on understanding whether remedial education programmes can contribute to generally improving the grades of participating pupils. Furthermore, the study pays special attention to immigrant pupils since this is the most numerous group participating in the programmes as well as being, based on their initial results, the most likely to benefit.
Remedial education programmes are the subject of growing interest. Since 2005, two of these programmes have been implemented in state-funded primary schools in the Community of Madrid. The first of the two was the School Accompaniment Programme. Since 2012/13 this was followed by the School Accompaniment and Support Programme, of similar characteristics to its predecessor, except for its regional nature. The decision to participate in the programme depends on schools themselves; however, they must meet certain requirements with regard to the profile of their pupils (a significant proportion of pupils with a poor academic performance and a disadvantaged socioeconomic background, as observed in figures 2 and 3). Around 20% of state-funded primary schools are participating in the programme, a percentage that has remained relatively stable percentage since it began.
The intervention consists of a series of classes in out-of-school hours ( 2-4 days per week) for these pupils, taught in small groups (10 to 15 pupils). The aim of the support is for pupils to develop work habits, learn study techniques and develop a liking for learning, while improving learning in areas such as Maths and Language.
Figure 3 shows the grades of pupils who attend schools participating in the programme and of those who do not on a gross level, in other words, without taking into account other individual or school characteristics, which could introduce a bias and which are taken into account subsequently.
3. Remedial education programmes benefit immigrant pupils
To study the effects of this intervention, the results in Mathematics and Language are compared for native and immigrant pupils at schools that never participated in the programme and at schools that participated in the programme for at least one academic year. It is important to take into account that participation in these programmes is related with the characteristics of the school (in that it depends on the profile of its pupils and is voluntary) and with the characteristics of the pupils (since it depends on their academic results and socioeconomic level). This analysis considers these factors that affect participation in the programme with the aim of identifying the impact of the intervention on the academic performance of the students.
One element associated with immigration and considered influential in educational performance refers to the concentration of immigrant pupils at the school. The empirical evidence shows unequal effects, even though the majority of analyses conclude that a higher concentration of immigrants has negative effects, for both native and immigrant pupils. What is the effect in this case?
Figure 4 describes the number of schools participating in the programme according to the percentage of immigrant pupils that the school-accompaniment groups have on average. The majority of schools show a high concentration, exceeding 50%, which reinforces the importance of analysing this group.
The methodology used to analyse the impact of the intervention enables correction for the differences shown previously among pupils at schools that participated in the programme and at schools that did not. After calculating the average impact for the period indicated, the result is that it is immigrant pupils who benefit most from remedial education, providing that their proportion in the groups is not very high. As shown by figure 5, a significant impact is observed in both Mathematics (0.14 points) and in Language (0.07 points). Remedial education programme could thus contribute to reducing the gap in grades between immigrant and native students. On the contrary, no significant impact of the programme is found for immigrant students in groups with a high concentration of this group of pupils nor for native pupils (the latter are not shown in the figure).
Early school leaving, which is closely related to poor academic results, is one of the main problems in education in Spain. A possible solution could be to expand support and reinforcement programmes starting in primary education. However, there is still not sufficient evidence regarding the impact of this type of programme at early ages. Nor does evidence exist on their effect on one of the most numerous groups among those who participate in them: immigrant pupils.
In this study, evidence is provided regarding the impact of these programmes once individual and school characteristics have been taken into account, as these affect participation in the intervention and could introduce biases. After calculating the average impact for the period indicated, the results obtained show a positive effect of all these interventions in immigrant students providing that their proportion in the accompaniment groups is not very high.
HOLMLUND, H. and O. SILVA (2014): “Targeting Noncognitive Skills to Improve Cognitive Outcomes: Evidence from a Remedial Education Intervention”, Journal of Human Capital, 8 (2).
JACOB B.A. and L. LEFGREN (2004) “Remedial Education and Student Achievement: A Regression-Discontinuity Analysis”, The Review of Economics and Statistics, 86 (1).
BATTAGLIA, M and M. HIDALGO-HIDALGO (2020): Non-Cognitive Skills and Remedial Education: Good News for Girls. Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Working Papers ECON 20.09.
GARCÍA-PÉREZ, J.I. and M . HIDALGO-HIDALGO (2017): "No student left behind? Evidence from the Program for School Guidance in Spain" Economics of Education Review 60: 97-111
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