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Can we redress the immigrant-native educational gap in Italy? Empirical evidence and policy suggestions
This paper provides an overview of the immigrant-native educational gaps in Italy with the aim of identifying policy implications that may be considered in order to improve equity of educational opportunity in the country. (1) The empirical findings indicate that a large part of the observed gaps is accounted for by social disparities existing between native and immigrant families rather than by migration-specific factors. Hence, targeted actions aimed at promoting children of immigrants' education should be integrated in a more general and comprehensive policy framework that addresses social inequality in education. (2) Education policies targeted on children of immigrants should prioritize interventions aimed at enhancing their learning achievements starting from the early educational stages, as the levels of ability achieved in these years have consequences on future skill formation as well as on educational choices and careers. (3) Italian language acquisition programs should be introduced in order to improve the learning achievements of first-generation children. These programs should replace the actual practice of enrolling newcomers in one class behind that corresponding to their age as they enter the Italian school system. (4) Considering the relevance of family environment in the schooling of children, initiatives to boost an active involvement of immigrant parents in schools and to provide immigrant children with personalized tutoring should be promoted. (5) Finally, despite the increasing number of descriptive studies, there is still scarce knowledge on which interventions really work to improve the learning outcomes of children of immigrants in Italy. Educational research based on randomized controlled trials should become common practice in order to achieve a deeper understanding of the causes of the immigrant-native gaps and better inform policy.