On 13th September 2013, the Permanent Representation of Lithuania hosted a SIRIUS stakeholder meeting on the European Commission study on Educational Support for Newly Arrived Migrant Children (NAMS). Organised by the Migration Policy Group, this meeting gathered a number of migration and integration stakeholders, as well as representatives of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture, to discuss the findings of the study and debate the specific standards/benchmarks that could be used to put its recommendations into practice.
Hanna Siarova of the Public Policy and Management Institute, Lithuania, one of the study’s authors, presented the central outcomes, and concluded that system design and universal support policies lead to a more comprehensive education system, which is the best solution for migrant education.
The ensuing discussion dealt with a number of issues that are closely linked to SIRUS principles.
Governance and mainstreaming
- Long term reform of education policy need to be accompanied simultaneously by temporary policies that focus on specific issues.
- School systems need to effectively serve all disadvantaged children, including the focus on newly arrived migrant children.
- The political climate has to be favourable in order to develop policy changes that favour inclusion of all disadvantaged pupils. If the political will is not there, it will be difficult to implement any necessary changes.
- The structure of the education system can lead to increased social segregation.
- European support for migrant education should come through funding initiatives such as the European Social Fund or the European Integration Fund and be subject to certain conditions.
- European discourse on migrant education is very positive, but implementation is often missing on the ground. How can the European institutions encourage improved implementation? Maybe by highlighting successful schools and supporting policy experimentation in a given country in order to raise awareness of successful education policies or encouraging each country to self-reflect on their policies and identify the policies they could share or improve upon.
- Strict family reunification policies may adversely affect NAMS’ chances at a successful school education, as the older they are when they arrive, the harder it can be for them to adapt.
General quality of the school system
- Leadership within schools can be supported through specialised bodies, such as the national CASNA reception desk in Luxembourg, the CASNAV in France, and the ACIDI in Portugal. These bodies offer assessment of prior schooling and welcoming arrangements for NAMS which help newcomers to get the right level of schooling and often use intercultural mediators to build a bridge between the schools and the newly arrived families from the outset. They may also offer training to teachers who work in diverse classrooms.
- Leadership in education and diversity is vital, and the Lithuanian Presidency focus on this issue was welcomed.
Diversity in schools
- Teachers need to be adequately trained so that they understand all of their students and their backgrounds, and have equally high expectations for everyone.
- The European Trade Union Committee for Education is currently carrying out a project on ‘The development of the teaching profession in times of the economic crisis as a key task for social partners in education. Finding joint strategies to tighten the links between education and the labour market’. This aims to improve the appeal of the teaching profession in general, including to young people with a migrant background, as well as improve the quality of teachers’ training.
- Children should be encouraged to champion the issue of inclusive schooling themselves. This might be done through the inclusion of diversity in citizenship education classes. The classes could also be used to discuss the issue of radicalisation, so that impressionable young people, such as refugees, have the chance to discuss this issue in a safe environment.
- The results of the 6th Framework Project Include-ED. Strategies for inclusion and social cohesion in Europe from Education may be of interest. The project provided analyses of educational strategies that contribute to overcome inequalities and promote social cohesion, and educational strategies that generate social exclusion, particularly focusing on vulnerable and marginalised groups.
- Undocumented migrants often face additional administrative barriers and may be more likely to leave school early. See PICUM’s Undocumented children in Europe: Invisible Victims of Immigration Restrictions and Children First and Foremost. A guide to realising the rights of children and families in an irregular migration situation
From a school to a community approach
- An all-encompassing community approach is vital, as teachers, parents and the local community work together, inform each other, and develop strategies for inclusive schooling.
- A good practice that increases parents’ participation in schools is to offer them language classes and other training through their children’s school. This offers them additional non-formal learning, and will help them to engage better with the local community.
- The SIRIUS European Practitioners Network on mentoring is a practical example of how to involve the migrant community in discussions of migrant education.
Download the Discussion Paper
Download the Presentation
Download the Summary, programme and list of participants