The Changing Face of Migration

An estimated 4.8 million migrants arrived at OECD countries in 2015, an increase of about 10% over the previous year, with family reunification and free movement across borders each accounting for about a third of these entries. The recent wave of migration has reinforced a long and steady upward trend in the share of immigrants in OECD countries, which has grown by more than 30% since 2000 and has become increasingly diverse. Over this period, several OECD countries that had previously been the country of origin of many migrants, including Ireland, Italy and Spain, became destination countries. Before the global economic crisis of 2008, immigration rates in these countries were sometimes as high as those of traditional OECD immigration countries.

Children Caught in the Currents

Children represent a significant portion of global migration flows, especially within refugee populations. According to a 2016 UNICEF report, 1 in 8 migrants worldwide is a child, as is more than one in two refugees – a proportion that has doubled between 2005 and 2015. Accommodating the unprecedented inflows of migrant children into education systems is one of the key challenges facing host countries.

Transforming Classrooms

Migration flows are already profoundly changing the composition of classrooms in OECD countries. Between 2003 and 2015, the share of students with foreign-born parents rose significantly across OECD countries. More than one in two students in some countries had foreign-born parents, highlighting the growing diversity within education systems.

Challenges and Opportunities

While migration flows can create difficulties for host communities, they also represent an opportunity for countries facing ageing native-born populations and the associated threat of labour and skills shortages. Effective education and social policies are necessary to integrate migrant children successfully into society and unlock the potential benefits of migration.

Building Resilience in Immigrant Students

This report aims to study the overall resilience of students with an immigrant background as they integrate into education systems. It seeks to identify both the risk factors that prevent immigrant students from successfully integrating and the protective factors that enable these students to thrive. The report provides new insights into the diversity of circumstances faced by immigrant students and evaluates education systems based on academic, social, emotional, and motivational measures. It also investigates the cumulative or multiplicative nature of risk and protective factors affecting the outcomes of different groups of students with an immigrant background, highlighting the challenges they face in comparison to their native peers.

Understanding Resilience: A Beacon of Hope Amidst Adversity

The term “resilience” carries a profound weight, originating from fields as diverse as physics, medicine, and ecology. Initially used to describe the ability of materials to bounce back after stress and patients to recover from trauma, it found its place in social sciences following the aftermath of World War II.

The war left behind a generation scarred by adversity – orphaned, injured, and traumatized children who struggled to find their footing in a shattered world. The founding of UNICEF stands as a testament to the global emergency of aiding these children. Researchers turned their focus towards understanding how some individuals could rise above severe adversity while others faltered.

Resilience, in its essence, embodies the human spirit’s capacity to prevail against all odds. It speaks of an individual’s ability to navigate through life’s storms and emerge stronger on the other side. Yet, resilience is not solely an attribute of individuals; it is also deeply intertwined with their environments.

Adversity strikes indiscriminately, hurling challenges at individuals, testing their mettle. But it is in the face of adversity that resilience shines brightest. It is the force that propels individuals towards positive adaptation, a beacon of hope amidst darkness.

However, resilience isn’t a solitary journey. It is shaped by a myriad of factors – both risk and protective – that influence an individual’s vulnerability to adversity. Understanding these factors is crucial in fostering resilience, as they determine whether one succumbs to the weight of hardship or rises above it.

In education, where socio-economic disparities loom large, resilience takes on added significance. It emerges as a counterbalance to the inequalities that threaten to derail students’ academic journeys. It is a testament to the human spirit’s indomitable resilience, a reminder that with the right support and environment, every child can thrive despite the odds stacked against them.

How Resilience Overcomes Socio-Economic Barriers

In a world where socio-economic disadvantage often dictates academic outcomes, there exists a compelling narrative of triumph against the odds. Despite facing formidable challenges, certain students from disadvantaged backgrounds manage to excel academically. At the heart of this phenomenon lies resilience, a quality that enables individuals to navigate adversity and achieve remarkable success.

Understanding Resilience Research

Resilience research delves into the factors that contribute to the academic achievements of disadvantaged students. While traditional metrics often define adversity in terms of socio-economic deprivation, resilience transcends these limitations. It focuses on the ability of individuals to overcome challenges and thrive despite their circumstances.

Defining Resilience-Related Terms


Adversity encompasses the experience of international migration, which poses significant challenges for students and their families. From grappling with language barriers to adapting to new social norms, migrants confront a myriad of obstacles. Many flee from conflict or persecution, seeking refuge in unfamiliar lands where they must rebuild their lives from scratch.


Adjustment reflects the positive adaptation of immigrant children, particularly in academic, social, emotional, and motivational domains. Education systems play a pivotal role in facilitating this adjustment process, nurturing students’ academic skills and overall well-being. Successful adjustment not only enhances current well-being but also lays the foundation for future success.


Vulnerability assesses the likelihood of immigrant students acquiring key academic skills and experiencing high levels of social, emotional, and motivational well-being. It entails a comparison with non-immigrant peers, highlighting disparities in access to resources and support systems.

Risk and Protective Factors:

Risk and protective factors encompass a range of individual, household, school, and system-level characteristics that influence vulnerability. These factors shape the educational trajectories of immigrant students, determining their likelihood of success. Understanding the interplay between risk and protective factors is crucial for devising targeted interventions and fostering academic resilience.

Strategies for Academic Success

Cultivating a Supportive Environment:

Creating a supportive environment is essential for nurturing academic resilience. Schools play a central role in this endeavor, offering resources such as mentorship programs, counseling services, and language support initiatives. By fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment, educational institutions can empower immigrant students to thrive academically.

Leveraging Cultural Assets:

Recognizing and valuing cultural assets is vital for promoting academic resilience among immigrant students. Embracing diversity fosters a sense of pride and belonging, bolstering students’ confidence and motivation. Schools can incorporate culturally relevant curriculum materials and celebrate cultural heritage through events and activities, thereby enriching the learning experience for all students.

Fostering Socio-Emotional Well-Being:

Prioritizing socio-emotional well-being is crucial for supporting academic resilience. Schools can implement social-emotional learning programs that equip students with essential skills such as self-awareness, empathy, and resilience. By fostering a positive school climate and promoting mental health awareness, educational institutions can create a conducive environment for academic success.

Adversity: Overcoming Challenges of Migration

Adversity is the formidable hurdle that individuals must overcome to demonstrate positive adjustment. In the context of this report, the experience of international migration, either firsthand or through parents, serves as the primary source of adversity. While the report focuses on international migration, it is essential to acknowledge that similar challenges may arise for children who relocate within their country of origin, such as those moving from one region to another or transitioning from rural to urban areas.

Migration represents a life-altering journey that reshapes the fabric of individuals’ lives. Researchers have identified a multitude of stressors associated with the process of moving and settling in a new country. These stressors include the loss of close relationships and social networks, housing issues, navigating legal documentation, language barriers, shifting family dynamics, and adapting to new educational and employment systems.

For immigrant children, who often migrate as dependents of their parents, the decision to relocate is rarely within their control. They accompany their families on this journey, bearing both the positive aspirations and the challenges inherent in migration. The desire to provide a better future for their children often serves as the driving force behind families’ decisions to seek opportunities in new lands.

This report underscores two critical factors that shape the adversity experienced by children with an immigrant background: whether the child directly experienced migration or whether their parents did, and the age at which the child migrated. The report distinguishes between various categories of immigrant students, including first-generation, second-generation, students of mixed heritage, and returning foreign-born students.

For first-generation immigrant students, the age at which migration occurred is an additional determinant of the level of adversity faced. Those who migrated at a young age often share life experiences more akin to second-generation immigrant students. Conversely, students who migrated later in life encounter distinct institutional barriers, such as adapting to new educational systems and cultural norms.

Moreover, students who migrated at a young age may grapple with a unique form of adversity due to a lack of long-term memories and attachments to their parents’ country of origin. This struggle to reconcile differing identities can pose significant challenges as they navigate their sense of belonging and cultural heritage.

In essence, the journey of migration is fraught with challenges that profoundly impact individuals and families. By recognizing and understanding the complexities of migration-related adversity, we can better support immigrant students on their path to academic success and holistic well-being.

Navigating Adversity with Academic Excellence

In the labyrinth of educational discourse, one beacon shines bright – the resilience of students with an immigrant background. As we delve into the depths of this crucial narrative, we unearth the pivotal role played by adjustment, a cornerstone in the edifice of resilience research. From the seminal works of Masten (2011) to the insightful musings of Rutter (2012a), adjustment emerges as the bedrock upon which resilience is forged.

Defining Resilience: Beyond Adversity to Achievement

Resilience, that elusive trait, manifests when individuals transcend adversity, emerging not just unscathed but with outcomes surpassing expectation. But what constitutes “better-than-expected” outcomes? Is it merely achieving a baseline, or does it entail soaring above average performance thresholds? The answer lies at the crossroads of diverse research streams, each offering unique insights into the enigma of resilience.

Academic Resilience: Illuminating the Path to Success

Within the tapestry of student resilience, academic prowess forms a luminous thread, guiding students through the maze of challenges towards a brighter future. Defined by the OECD as the ability to excel academically despite socio-economic hardships, academic resilience heralds a new dawn for marginalized students.

In the hallowed annals of education, the PISA report stands as a testament to the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. Against the Odds (OECD, 2011) chronicles the journey of students from the lowest echelons of socio-economic status to the pinnacle of academic achievement. It elucidates the transformative power of academic resilience, wherein students defy statistical norms to carve out their destinies.

The Crucible of Assessment: Assessing the Dimensions of Resilience

Yet, the quest for resilience extends beyond the confines of standardized assessments. While academic results offer a glimpse into students’ cognitive prowess, true resilience encompasses a multifaceted spectrum of well-being. From life satisfaction to social integration, and from emotional stability to motivational drive, resilience transcends academic boundaries to embrace the entirety of human potential.

Charting the Course: Strategies for Educational Empowerment

As stewards of educational progress, we must chart a course that empowers students to navigate the tempests of life with unwavering fortitude. It is not enough to merely equip them with academic skills; we must nurture their holistic development, fostering resilience in all its dimensions.

From tailored intervention programs to inclusive policies, the journey towards educational equity demands concerted efforts on all fronts. By embracing the multifaceted nature of resilience and addressing the diverse needs of students, we pave the way for a future where every individual can thrive, regardless of their background or circumstances.

In conclusion, the path to student resilience is paved with academic excellence, fortified by holistic well-being, and illuminated by the beacon of hope. As we traverse this path together, let us heed the call to action, championing the cause of educational empowerment for all.

Understanding the Resilience of Students with an Immigrant Background

Introduction: Shifting Perspectives

In today’s globalized world, children with immigrant backgrounds often face unique challenges in the educational landscape. However, it’s imperative to move beyond the traditional deficit model that views these students solely as liabilities. Instead, embracing a resource model allows us to recognize their potential as valuable members of our communities, capable of contributing significantly to our economic, social, and cultural spheres.

Exploring Resilience: Overcoming Adversity

Resilience, at its core, is the remarkable ability of individuals to thrive in the face of adversity. It’s a dynamic interplay between personal attributes, familial support, and broader environmental factors that empower students to beat the odds stacked against them. Through harnessing their psychological and physical resources and leveraging the support systems around them, these students demonstrate remarkable resilience in navigating the complexities of education.

The Multilevel Nature of Risk and Protective Factors

A crucial aspect of understanding the resilience of immigrant students lies in recognizing the multilevel nature of risk and protective factors. These factors operate at various levels, including the individual, family, school, and broader social environment. By examining these levels holistically, we gain insights into the intricate web of influences shaping students’ educational outcomes.

Identifying Key Factors: From Vulnerability to Strength

Researchers have identified three primary sets of factors that moderate the impact of adversity and foster academic resilience: attributes of the children themselves, characteristics of their families, and attributes of their broader social environment. These encompass not only the immediate familial context but also extend to the neighborhood and community at large. By understanding and addressing these factors, we can effectively mitigate the challenges faced by immigrant students and empower them to succeed academically.

Unveiling Unexpected “Steeling Effects”

Interestingly, resilience research has uncovered the phenomenon of “steeling effects,” wherein certain risk factors, when experienced under specific conditions, can paradoxically reduce vulnerability. Just as vaccinations bolster the body’s immune system, manageable risk factors can equip individuals with effective coping mechanisms, enabling them to navigate adversity with resilience and determination.

Embracing a Multidimensional Approach

To truly grasp the essence of resilience, we must adopt a multidimensional approach that acknowledges the intricate interplay between individuals and their social and institutional environments. This entails considering not only the personal attributes of students but also the socioeconomic context in which they operate, as well as the supportive networks provided by schools and communities.

Conclusion: Fostering Resilience in Immigrant Students

In conclusion, understanding the resilience of students with immigrant backgrounds requires us to transcend simplistic narratives of vulnerability. By embracing a holistic perspective and addressing the multifaceted influences shaping their educational journey, we can empower these students to thrive despite the challenges they may face. Through concerted efforts at all levels of society, we can create an environment where every child, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to fulfill their potential and contribute meaningfully to our collective future.