Education Systems and Ethnic Educational Inequality: Harmonizing Contextual Data from International Large-Scale Assessment Studies to Analyze Effects of Educational Systems on the Development of Migration-Specific Achievement Gaps

[German: Bildungssysteme und Migrationsspezifische Bildungsungleichheit, the „BiMiBi project“]

In Germany and many other countries, children of migrants often have a hard time coping with school. However, this is not the case in all Western countries. Identifying why some countries make it easier for migrant students to cope with school is the aim of this project, which compares data from three large-scale assessment studies (PISA, TIMMS, PIRLS) between 1995 and 2018. The project was funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) for three years with 450.000 Euros.

In most Western countries, the proportion of people with a migration background has risen sharply over the past decades. Integrating growing immigrant populations poses a challenge for these receiving countries. An important prerequisite for social integration is the successful participation in education in the receiving countries. In some countries, there are significant differences between students with and without a migrant background with regard to educational success and the acquisition of skills. In other countries, however, students with a migration background do not underperform and even outperform their peers without an immigrant background.

Therefore, an obvious starting point is to examine to what extent characteristics of the different educational systems influence the skill development of students with and without migration background across various countries. The comprehensive data that international school achievement studies have gathered over the past two decades offer a wealth of data for both describing educational systems and educational inequality.

A challenge to this endeavor, however, is that the data has not yet been prepared for comparisons across time and between the various studies. But this is necessary to make more reliable statements about the influence of education systems on achievement inequalities. This project, therefore, aims to prepare the various school performance studies in such a way that they are comparable over the entire survey period and can be analyzed accordingly. Since this is quite a challenge, extensive preparations are required before the data is available in a form that allows the analyzes required for the project to be carried out. This preliminary work and the harmonization decisions are documented in the project and made available for further analysis, with the idea of an open science community in mind.

Finally, the project aims to clarify when differences in achievement between students with and without a migration background develop in the educational process. Here, too, the project focuses on the importance of the education system and examines which features of the education system can reduce such differences. The question of when achievement inequalities arise is central to determining how systematic achievement inequalities between groups can be reduced.


Runtime: 11/2020 – 10/2023
Funding: 450 870 Euro

Funded by: German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG)

Facilities: Bergische Universität Wuppertal (University of Wuppertal), Stiftungsuniversität Hildesheim (University of Hildesheim)

Project Leaders:
Prof. Dr. Janna Teltemann, University of Hildesheim
Prof. Dr. Reinhard Schunck, University of Wuppertal

Research Assistants:
Max Brinkmann, M.Sc., University of Hildesheim
Nora Huth, M.A., Universität of Wuppertal

Scientific publications

  • Teltemann, J., Brinkmann, M., Huth, N. & Schunck, R. (2022). Immigrant Achievement and Language Use Across Countries - The Role of Family Background and Education Systems. In: Kersten, K. & Winsler, A. (Ed.): Understanding variability in second language acquisitiopn, bilingualism, and cognition: A multi-layered perspective. New York:Routledge.
  • Teltemann, J. & Schunck, R. (2020). Standardized Testing, Use of Assessment Data, and Low Reading Performance of Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Students in OECD Countries. Frontiers in Sociology 5: 544628. doi: 10.3389/fsoc.2020.544628.
  • Teltemann, J. & Schunck, R. (2016). Education Systems, School Segregation, and Second-Generation Immigrants' Educational Success: Evidence from a Country-Fixed Effects Approach Using Three Waves of PISA. International Journal of Comparative Sociology 57(6):401–424. doi: ps://">10.1177/0020715216687348.


  • Brinkmann, M., Huth-Stöckle, N., Teltemann, J., Schunck, R. (09.03.22). "Tracking and social inequality in school belongingness: a difference-in-differences approach". Gesellschaft für Empirische Bildungsforschung (GEBF) - 9. GEBF-Tagung: Alles auf Anfang?_ Bildung im digitalen Wandel. Bamberg.
  • Brinkmann M. (22.04.21). "Schulleistungsstudien im Vergleich: Bildungssysteme und migrationsspezifische Bildungsungleichheit". Zentrum für Bildungsintegration (ZBI) Hildesheim - Mini Lectures
  • Brinkmann M. (25.03.21). „Ex-Post-Harmonisierung von Large-Scale-Assessments: Ein fehlendes Puzzleteil für die Analyse von ethnischer Bildungsungleichheit". Berliner Netzwerks für interdisziplinäre Bildungsforschung (BIEN) - Jahrestagung.
  • Teltemann, J. (March 2021). Forum 8: Sekundärdatenanalysen in der empirischen Bildungsforschung: Chancen, Herausforderungen und Entwicklungspotenziale. Bildungswelten der Zukunft. BMBF-Bildungsforschungstagung. Berlin.

Media Activity & Transfer

Prof. Dr. Janna Teltemann
Project Leader BiMiBi
University of Hildesheim

Janna Teltemann is project leader of the BiMiBi project at the university of Hildesheim where she is a professor of Sociology of Education. Prior to that, she carried out research in the field of migration, urban studies and the internationalization of educational policies at the University of Bremen. In her dissertation, she already worked on the topic of education systems and how they affect the achievement and educational attainment of migrants. She published several studies about the effect of education systems and educational inequalities.

Prof. Dr. Reinhard Schunck
Project Leader BiMiBi
University of Wuppertal

Reinhard Schunck is a project leader in the BiMiBi project at the University of Wuppertal, where he is a Professor of Sociology. Prior to this, he was an interim professor of empirical methods in the social sciences at the University of Aachen (RWTH) and a project leader at GESIS in Cologne. He published several studies about the integration of migrants and about methodological problems in multilevel and longitudinal analyzes.

Max Brinkmann
Research Assistants
University of Hildesheim

Max Brinkmann is a research assistant at the University of Hildesheim in the BiMiBi project since 2020. He studied Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Groningen (M.Sc.). Prior he studied Sociology (B.A.) at the University of Wuppertal and Economics (B.Sc.) at the University of Düsseldorf. He gained experience in quantitative methods through his master thesis and during the research master at the University of Groningen.

Nora Huth
Research Assistants
University of Wuppertal

Since 2020, Nora Huth is a research assistant at the University of Wuppertal in the BiMiBi project. Prior to this she worked in the research project “Solikris”, investigating attitudes towards migrants in cross-national comparison. She studied Social Sciences and Economics at the University of Cologne (B.Sc.) and Sociology at the University of Duisburg-Essen (M.A.). Her research interests pertain attitudes towards migrants, contextual effects, integration of migrants, and quantitative methods.

Nakia El-Sayed
Graduate Research Assistant
University of Hildesheim

Since 2021, Nakia El-Sayed is an undergraduate research assistant at the University of Hildesheim in the BiMiBi project. He currently studies Digital Social Science (B.A.) at the University of Hildesheim. His research interests encompasses, inter alia, data science, digital transformation, and quantitative methods.





Lisanne Strasser
Graduate Research Assistant
University of Wuppertal

Since 2022, Lisanne Strasser is a graduate research assistant at the University of Wuppertal in the BiMiBi project. She currently studies Sociology (B.A.) at the University of Wuppertal. Her research interests pertain the sociology of migration, educational and labor market inequalities.