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Culture, migration and educational performance

Australian students impacted by inequality of their family’s origins

New research by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, the NCSEHE and The University of Western Australia has revealed cultural and migrant backgrounds, cultural norms and gender role models significantly impact girls’ and boys’ school performance.

“The results provide evidence that the effect of cultural background is passed on by gender role models and norms within the family, which in-turn affect academic performance,” lead author Associate Professor Mike Dockery said.

“This is an important finding as it suggests policymakers need to consider the cultural differences between male and female children to ensure they can realise their full potential, regardless of their cultural background.”


This paper explores how cultural and migrant backgrounds affect boys’ and girls’ high-school academic performance. Scores from the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment are analysed for Australian children from migrant and non-migrant families, conditional upon a measure of gender equity in secondary education in their country of ancestry. Australia is a particularly pertinent case study as it has the third highest migrant (foreign-born) proportion among OECD countries (27.4% of population). We find that children from migrant backgrounds affording lower schooling access to children of their own gender achieve lower scores on PISA reading, mathematics and science tests. This holds when the sample is restricted to children born in Australia, providing strong evidence that the effect is cultural, with further analysis showing this effect to be more pronounced for boys.

Read the full report: Culture, migration and educational performance: a focus on gender outcomes using Australian PISA tests

Posted 23 May 2019 Posted in Culturally and linguistically diverse, General