This algorithm helps schools distribute local and migrant students evenly across classrooms
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This algorithm helps schools distribute local and migrant students evenly across classrooms

This algorithm helps schools distribute local and migrant students evenly across classrooms

The immigration of families has become common practice thanks, at least partially, to globalisation, which has contributed to creating a borderless world.

Data from the United Nations said the number of international migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million in 2019, an increase of 51 million since 2010. 

Research literature said immigrant students can have difficulties with language and assimilating with the culture of their host country. First-generation students will need time to adjust socially and emotionally to their new home and its education system, which can affect their learning outcomes. 

According to swissinfo.ch, the number of people who moved to Switzerland grew last year, bringing the foreign population further above two million.


The Local reported that there are language disparities among primary school students in Zurich, but a new algorithm aims to ensure the right proportion of immigrant students in each classroom.

Quoting Sunday’s SonntagsZeitung newspaper, the report said the percentage of foreign students in high-income areas of the city is below 20 percent, while in other neighbourhoods the proportion can reach 75 percent. Swiss authorities want to even out those numbers.

Oliver Dlabac, researcher at the Centre for Democracy, which is attached to the University of Zurich, was quoted saying that the uneven distribution of immigrants “is problematic because the social composition of schools has a demonstrable effect on student performance.

“If you want more equal opportunity, you can do it only with a stronger mix,” he said.

Dlabac is part of the team that developed the algorithm that allows schools to achieve parity between foreign and Swiss students in Zurich’s classrooms. The software uses data and performs complicated calculations from a census carried out in classes from the first to the third year of primary schools to determine the right proportions.

He believes the algorithm could be used in the future in other Swiss cities with a high concentration of immigrants.

Switzerland has an estimated population of 8.5 million; foreigners constitute about a quarter of the population. Government statistics note that 27.3 percent of primary school students in Switzerland are foreign, but some cantons have a higher ratio than others.

If proven to be a success, should schools in other countries with a high percentage of foreign students tap into algorithms to help equally distribute foreign students across classrooms?

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