Immigrants outdo native students in studies (Opinion, Page A20)

Wednesday, 14 May 2017

The Straits Times

In today’s edition of The Straits Times, there was an article contribution by Dr Kelvin Seah Kah Cheng from the Department of Economics at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in which he shared his views on whether immigrant or native children perform better in academic performance in Singapore. Dr Seah opined that the only way to answer this question is through an empirical examination of data. He revealed his findings from analysing data from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) – a large-scale international survey that Singapore schools are a part of, which provides information on the mathematics, science and reading achievements of 15-year-old students, as measured by their skills and competencies in solving real-world problems.

A comparison of test scores showed that, on average, immigrant students fared better in the three subjects than native students, mostly due to their better socio-economic background. Dr Seah felt the fact that immigrant students in Singapore fared better than native students is, in some sense, reassuring because it suggest that immigrants do not dilute the quality of the peer group which native children are exposed to. Consequently, exposure to immigrant peers is unlikely to hurt native children but if anything, it might actually enhance their achievement. Dr Seah added that more importantly, the results indicate that immigrant children in Singapore are doing well academically, so consequently, there seems to be little urgency, for now, to have some form of equalisation programme to further support their academic performance.

The article is part of a monthly series “Ask: NUS Economists” by the NUS Department of Economics. Each month, a panel will address a topical issue.

Click here to read the article.

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