“Those who demand too little of children, demand less and less of them,” said Markus Neuenschwander, author of the SCALA study, which was carried out by University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern's (FHNW).
One of the most surprising findings of the study was that teachers had lower expectations of students with a migrant background even when it came to mathematics, where there is no real different in terms of results achieved compared to students without that background.
In German classes, where a difference in results could be expected, teachers' expectations of migrant children were even lower.
Neuenschwander said the survey-based results meant a vicious circle: teachers' prejudices were confirmed.
“The difference in performance between migrants and non-migrants gets larger during their school career,” he told Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag.
The study's also results confirm the findings of research carried out overseas.
“Lower expectations lead to lower performance,” said University of Zurich education researcher Katharina Maag.
For Neuenschwander, the results of the study are clear: teachers need further education designed to question their preconceptions of migrant children.
“Most of them are not aware that they have prejudices,” he said.
A study of 15,000 students published late last year showed children of immigrants in Switzerland are more likely to fail when they start senior high school or vocational training because their parents don't know the Swiss system very well.
According to the study undertaken by the universities of Zurich and Bern, 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.