Post-school expectations and outcomes among migrant-origin young people in Ireland

June 26, 2023

Chapter 3 in Merike Darmody & Emer Smyth (eds.), Post-school Pathways of Migrant-Origin Youth in Europe

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International evidence suggests that migrant students tend to be highly motivated to progress to higher (tertiary) education, but for many reasons, these aspirations may not be achieved – the “aspirations-achievement” paradox. This chapter examines migrant students’ post-school expectations at 17 and their actual participation in higher education at age 20 using a longitudinal sample of young people from Cohort’98 of the Growing Up in Ireland study. Ireland represents an interesting case study given the relatively highly educated nature of the migrant population, the fact that the education system is characterised by active secondary school choice by parents (influencing social and ethnic segregation), and very high rates of transition to higher education. Distinguishing migrant-origin young people by language background, we find post-school expectations are high for both English-speaking and non-English-speaking migrant-origin groups and their Irish peers and do not differ between the three groups. Progression to third-level education is also high among all three groups, though it is actually somewhat higher for non-English-speaking, migrant-origin groups. This finding challenges both the “aspirations-achievement” paradox for migrant-origin students and also the expectation that migrant-origin students are necessarily disadvantaged in terms of post-school transitions.