Cultural transition and academic achievement of students from ethnic minority backgrounds: a content analysis of empirical research on acculturation

Elena Makarova, Dina Birman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: The achievement gap between immigrant and non-immigrant students that has been identified in most OECD countries and the considerable educational dropout rate among students from ethnic minority backgrounds in some countries have become serious challenges for national educational systems. The educational underachievement of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds is embedded in the process of their acculturation. In the tradition of cross-cultural psychology, acculturation describes individual or ethno-cultural group changes in behaviour and attitudes in the situation of intercultural contact. Such cultural changes are central to the experience of ethnic minority students including newly arriving immigrants, children of immigrants and members of marginalised ethnic and racial groups. Acculturation has been described as a stressful process, and acculturation orientations adopted by young people from ethnic minority backgrounds have been shown to have an impact on their adjustment. Purpose: The school context has been recognised to be the crucial context for acculturation of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds. The academic achievement of these students is thus embedded in the acculturation process, which involves cultural identity development, psychological adjustment and behavioural adjustment. The study is aimed at analysing and systematising the findings of empirical research on acculturation in the school context with a focus on the academic achievement of young people from minority backgrounds. Design and methods: For this study, 29 peer-reviewed articles from a total of 348 articles that matched the search criteria in the database of the Education Resources Information Centre were selected according to inclusion criteria. The selected articles addressed academic achievement of young people from minority backgrounds in relation to at least one of the issues of acculturation such as cultural identity, psychological adjustment and behavioural adjustment. The articles were analysed by applying the method of qualitative content analysis, using MAXQDA software. The findings presented in the selected articles were analysed and integrated according to a deductively developed and inductively enriched category system. Conclusions: Overall, the results of our analysis offer insight into issues of acculturation in relation to academic achievement. Moreover, our findings reveal the complexity of the relationship between cultural transition and school adjustment for young people. As shown in our review, although a bi-cultural orientation was predominantly positively related to school adjustment of minority students, some studies also identified assimilative attitudes as advantageous for students’ academic achievement as well as for their psychological and behavioural adjustment. Moreover, our study has also shown that young people’s acculturative attitudes may have a different impact on their school adjustment relative to acculturative behaviours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEducational Research
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jun 25 2015

Keywords

  • academic achievement
  • acculturation
  • ethnic minority students
  • school

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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