School performance in linguistically divided educational systems: A study of the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia and Latvia
It is often supposed that the lower educational performance of ethnic minority students is due to language difficulties. The linguistically divided school systems in Estonia and Latvia enable us to investigate the academic performance of minority children who study in their native language. I explore how mathematical performance is related with individual social background, achievement motives, and school context in such educational systems. I use the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006 data to analyse the mathematical performance of Russian-speaking and native Estonian or Latvian students. The results of a multilevel analysis indicate that the linguistically divided school systems in Estonia and Latvia have different outcomes. In Latvia, results show that minority students experience no significant disadvantages irrespective of whether they attend Russian or Latvian schools. In Estonia, my results indicate that students who attend Russian schools have a lower performance than other students. This is partly explained by the socio-economic composition of Russian schools, indicating that children undergo difficulties due to their parental disadvantages. Additional reasons might be related to learning environments in these schools. However, Russian-speaking students in Estonian schools also seem to lag behind majority students. Thus, the opportunity to study in their native language might have only a minor influence on their educational achievement, while the school or learning context seem to be the decisive factors.