We analyze whether country differences in the noncognitive abilities that children are encouraged to learn at home, i.e. differences in culture, account for international differences in student performance. We compare the performance in language, mathematics and science in PISA of second-generation immigrants of different origins living in the same host country and we analyze three host countries: Australia, Luxembourg and Switzerland. We use the first principal component of the valuation of different child qualities in the student’s country of ancestry in the 1980s as our cultural proxy. Our estimates suggest that culture plays a prominent role in explaining variation in 15-years-old schoolchildren scholastic performance in all the subjects and host countries. A one-standard-deviation increase in our cultural proxy accounts for 18% to 23% of the standard deviation of student performance across ancestries. We show that it is the intergenerational transmission of qualities like independence and imagination and of those related to the Conscientiousness personality factor, like perseverance and thrift, what improves achievement tests.