Turning Migration Disadvantage into Educational Advantage. Autobiographies of Successful Students with an Immigrant Background


The article focuses on unexpected pathways of successful students with an immigrant background, in order to investigate the implication of this phenomenon from a theoretical, methodological and empirical point of view. After a review of the main sociological studies on “immigrant optimism” towards educational success, I will reflect on biographical approach, particularly suitable to study this topic. A on-going research project based on the collection of educational autobiographies of successful immigrant-origin students, attending upper secondary schools in Northern Italy, is presented. Then, the story of Destiny, a 16 years-old girl with Moroccan origin, is used as a case study to explore transformative actions that lead second-generation students to educational success and to identify the social logic enrolled in a single case. Destiny, with the support of parents and teachers, shows the capacity to turn the disadvantage of migration into an educational advantage, through specific strategies developed to contrast adversities and inequalities, assuming education to handle social constraints. In Destiny autobiography, migration reveals its nature of biographical resource and its important role to lead disadvantaged students to excellent school outcomes: migration appears as a an experience of familiar sufferance and failure, but also a source of a biographical learning; a chance of reflexivity on failure and of awareness of disadvantage; an experience that transmit and foster non-cognitive skills, that are strong predictor of educational success. The methodological choice of “educational autobiography” is thus considered crucial to track new narratives and discourses on ethnic inequalities in education.

Palabras clave

Immigrant-origin Students; Immigrant Optimism; Educational Autobiography; Migration as a Biographical Resource

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Revista de Sociología de la Educación - RASE

ISSN: 2605-1923 (anterior ISSN: 1988-7302)


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Las publicaciones de la RASE tienen Licencia Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional.