This research examines the difficulties faced by children of recent migrants from mainland China to France in Paris schools, and explains the underlying factors. It is based on fieldwork in Paris schools from 2005 to 2013. Other long-established Chinese communities in France consist mainly of Indo-Chinese refugees of Chinese descent. Their children were born in France and have adjusted to French schools; in contrast, some children of new Chinese immigrants (mainly from Wenzhou) do not attend school regularly and often drop out. My findings show that formation of the folk theory of success that values school education — which explains school success among Indo-Chinese refugee children — is hampered by institutional constraints resulting from parents’ status as illegal immigrants, and unstable parent-child relationships due to the family’s immigration arrangements. This paper reveals the limitations of conventional explanations for Chinese immigrants’ school success and failure based on cultural values.
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