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The transition to post-compulsory education among students of immigrant origin in Catalonia

An analysis of early school leavers between the academic years of 2013-2014 and 2015-2016

Jordi Bayona-i-Carrasco, Serra Hunter Professor, Dep. Geography (Universitat de Barcelona) and CERCA; Andreu Domingo, CERCA
Project selected in the Call to support social research projects: vocational training, early school leaving and job insecurity

Early school leaving rates registered in Spain in 2019 show the highest values in the European Union, with some 17.3% of young people aged 18-24 years interrupting their studies without reaching post-compulsory education stages. A significant part of this early school leaving occurs in the transition between compulsory and post-compulsory education, which represents a key phase in young people’s educational careers. This study analyses, over three academic years (2013-2014 to 2015-2016), pupils born in 1998 based on their migratory backgrounds. Among young people of immigrant origin, who in 2013-2014 accounted for one quarter of pupils, the early school leaving rate was high, at 23.5%, representing around a third of the total in Catalonia. The situation is more pronounced among first-generation immigrants, but it persists among descendants. Among those who continue studying, segmentation of educational itineraries is confirmed, with a lower proportion of students of immigrant origin studying for their Bachillerato.
Key points
  • 1
       Pupils of immigrant origin run a higher risk of early school leaving. In the transition between compulsory and post-compulsory education, some 23.5% of pupils of immigrant origin cease studying, versus 13.3% of native pupils. This means over one third of early school leavers in Catalonia between the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 academic years belonged to the first group.
  • 2
       Similarly, among the whole set of pupils, boys of immigrant origin experienced a higher proportion of early school leaving, with 26.5% as opposed to 20.1% among the girls. This imbalance is most ob-vious among the first generations of immigrants.
  • 3
       Early school leaving is prolonged over time as a consequence of the higher proportion of pupils re-peating school years. In the 2013-2014 academic year, some 40.5% of pupils of immigrant origin were not in the school year that corresponded to their age.
  • 4
       Strong selection exists in continuity of studies: only 44.8% of pupils of immigrant origin study for the Bachillerato, versus 61.1% of native pupils.
  • 5
       Composition by migratory status determines part of early school leaving when observed by origins, with more early leavers in groups where first-generation pupils predominate. The highest rate is observed among first-generation Asian and descendant Sub-Saharan boys, and cannot be related with recent arrival in the country.
Pupils of immigrant origin show less continuity in access to post-compulsory education
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To explain the different intensities of early school leaving, this study focuses on the consequences of the migration process, while keeping in mind that the socioeconomic differences between families of immigrant origin and native families also play an important role, along with other aspects not discussed here such as discontinuities at school (Bayona et al, 2020). For the generation of pupils born in 1998, the 2013-2014 academic year should have represented the last year of compulsory education. Between this academic year and 2015-2016, some 15.6% of pupils ceased studying. Early school leaving reached 23.5% among pupils of immigrant origin, versus 13.3% of native pupils.

This work distinguishes various migratory statuses: that of pupils born abroad who reach Catalonia aged over seven (First generation); those born abroad who reach Catalonia aged under seven (Generation 1.75); descendants, born in Spain, of two migrated parents (Second-generation); those with only one parent born abroad (Generation 2.5). Pupils born in Spain whose parents were too are classified as natives.

As well as differences between sexes, different behaviours are observed according to migratory status, with a high early school leaving rate among the incipient second generations and pupils who arrived more recently, the first generation. In contrast, the children of mixed couples show no differences with natives, even achieving better results.

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