Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2001 Issue »

    Globalization, Immigration, and Education

    The Research Agenda

    Marcelo Suárez-Orozco
    In this article, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco sets forth a new paradigm for understanding immigration and education in the United States, situating it within the broader context of globalization. Suárez-Orozco argues that globalization is the reason that immigrant children are entering U.S. schools in unprecedented numbers. He argues that a critical but understudied area of recent scholarship on globalization is the experiences of children.

    He focuses here on scholarly issues pertinent to the education of immigrant children in school settings. He contends that understanding these issues is crucial, particularly in the current era of globalization, because schooling profoundly shapes the current and future well-being of children. Schooling has become a high-stakes process, with the potential to impart — or fail to impart — the skills needed in the rapidly growing knowledge-intensive sector of the global economy. Children who thrive in schools will be better prepared to penetrate the well-remunerated opportunity structure; children who fail or leave schools will be de facto locked out of this structure.

    According to Suárez-Orozco, globalization defines the post–Cold War order of nations. He sees three pillars of globalization:
    • The creation of new information and communication technologies, which have the promise of freeing people from “the tyranny of space and time.” These new technologies are rapidly and irrevocably changing the nature of work, thought, and the interpersonal patterning of social relations.
    • The emergence of global markets and post-national, knowledge-intensive economies, which are bypassing traditional national borders. Under the regime of global capitalism, the production of goods and services is completely internationalized.
    • Unprecedented levels of immigration and displacement. Globalization is about deterritorialization, Suárez-Orozco writes, not only of markets, information, and symbols, but also of large and growing numbers of people. Large-scale immigration is a world issue that is transforming Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
    This most recent wave of immigration into the United States is substantively different from previous waves. The post-1965 wave of immigration is characterized by its intensity — the immigrant population grew by over 30 percent in the 1990s — and by the radical shift in the sources of the immigration — over 50 percent of all immigrants are from Latin America and over 25 percent are from Asia.

    In the last few years there have been a number of studies examining the adaptation of immigrant children in schools. Suárez-Orozco characterizes their findings by saying that immigrant children today fit a trimodal pattern of school adaptation: some immigrant children do quite well in school, surpassing U.S.-born children in grades, standardized test scores, and attitudes toward education; other immigrant children tend to overlap with U.S.-born children, and yet others tend to achieve below their U.S.-born peers.

    The issue of variability in school adaptation and outcomes among different immigrant groups has received some attention in the scholarly literature. Some data suggest an unsettling pattern in need of further study: among immigrants today, length of residence in the United States seems to be associated with declining health, school achievement, and aspirations. In other words, acculturation today seems to lead to detrimental health, more ambivalent attitudes toward school, and lower grades.

    After this broad review of the existing literature, Suárez-Orozco suggests three especially promising areas of future work with immigrant children: globalization and work, globalization and identities, and globalization and belonging. Global capitalism thrives by enforcing a regime that selects for the convergence of skills and competencies to thrive in the workplace. These include communication, higher order symbolic and technical competencies, and habits of work and interpersonal sensibilities that are common in any global urban setting. Though there is some question whether this convergence obliterates cultural differences, the fact is that globalization also creates differences, and that it drives millions of ethnically marked people to cross national and cultural boundaries. A globalized cultural rights regime, the politics of recognition, and the culture of multiculturalism are generating extremely complex new identity formations. How do these transformations in racial and ethnic self-identities affect the schooling of immigrant children? Finally, what happens to the sense of belonging in a post-national world where both fortunes and personae are tied to global processes? For large numbers of people in the world today, belonging is deeply fragmented.

    Suárez-Orozco concludes by noting that immigration will continue to be a powerful vector of change. He argues that we need a major research agenda to examine the long-term causes and consequences of global immigration dynamics, and better theoretical understanding of the multiple paths taken by immigrants, especially children, in their long-term adaptation.

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    Fall 2001 Issue


    Desiree Baolian, Qin-Hilliard, Erika Feinauer, Blanca G. Quiroz
    Globalization, Immigration, and Education
    The Research Agenda
    Marcelo Suárez-Orozco
    The Work Kids Do
    Mexican and Central American Immigrant Children’s Contributions to Households and Schools in California
    Marjorie Faulstich Orellana
    The Sojourner Experience of Yemeni American High School Students
    An Ethnographic Portrait
    Loukia K. Sarroub
    The Value of Hard Work
    Lessons on Parent Involvement from an (Im)migrant Household
    Gerardo R. Lopez
    Parents’ Aspirations and Investment
    The Role of Social Class in the Educational Experiences of 1.5- and Second-Generation Chinese Americans
    Vivian Louie
    Structuring Failure and Success
    Understanding the Variability in Latino School Engagement
    Gilberto Q. Conchas
    Immigrant Students’ Worlds in Art
    Robert Shreefter
    More than “Model Minorities” or “Delinquents”
    A Look at Hmong American High School Students
    Stacey J. Lee
    More Than Empty Footprints in the Sand
    Educating Immigrant Children
    Eva Midobuche
    The Effects of Immigrant Generation and Ethnicity on Educational Attainment among Young African and Caribbean Blacks in the United States
    Xue Lan Rong and Frank Brown
    A Comparative Longitudinal Approach to Acculturation among Children from Immigrant Families
    Andrew J. Fuligni
    Understanding and Serving the Children of Immigrants
    Carola Suarez-Orozco

    Book Notes

    Children of Immigration
    By Carola Suárez-Orozco and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco

    At War with Diversity
    By James Crawford

    Educating New Americans
    By D. F. Hones and C. S. Cha

    Language Crossing
    Edited by Karen Ogulnick