The study, undertaken by the universities of Zurich and Bern and published in the SonntagsZeitung on Sunday, examined the experience of 13,000 15-year-olds finishing compulsory schooling in Switzerland and found a stark difference between teens born in Switzerland to immigrant parents and those born to Swiss parents.
According to the study, a huge 46 percent of teens born to immigrant parents fall behind after age 15. Either they drop out of continuing education, are forced to retake a year or take a gap year. That compares with just 31 percent of children born to Swiss parents.
Children of immigrants fail more frequently because their parents are not well enough informed about the subtleties of the Swiss education system and therefore cannot advise their children sufficiently, found the study's authors.
Speaking to the paper, Stefan Wolter, education professor at the University of Bern and co-author of the study, said some foreign parents also have “exaggerated educational aspirations” for their children and that they are more likely than Swiss parents to tell their child to do a demanding course, “even if the young person isn't qualified enough for that”.
The results differed depending on the nationality. While children of Balkan origin fail no more than the children of Swiss parents, those of Portuguese, German, French and Austrian origin see higher failure rates.
Parents from those countries often underestimate courses and should be better informed “to prevent them wanting too much for their child”, said Wolter.
Children in Switzerland must attend school up to the age of 15, from kindergarten to lower secondary level.
After that they can choose to go on to a senior high school where they either continue with academic studies at upper secondary level, or take vocational training.