Although corporate multinational firms around the world have long reaped the benefits of mentoring and coaching programs, such programs are a relatively new fixture in Europe’s education system. For disadvantaged children of migrant background, who are disproportionately among those who underperform in the classroom, mentoring programs provide specific and personalized support on the road to academic success. Mentors who act as role models and fill the role of an older sibling can help improve the cognitive gains, self-esteem, and self-reliance of their mentees. When a high-achieving university student with an immigrant background teams up with a younger, at-risk student with immigrant parents, the positive effects can extend far beyond the classroom.
In fact, mentoring is important precisely because it addresses core needs that schools themselves are not equipped to fill. The intense and individualized guidance provided via mentoring can motivate students more deeply and personally, and learning in an informal setting rather than a classroom can be a refreshing change for teenagers. Additionally, mentors can tackle emotional, cognitive, and social problems in a more holistic manner—for example, by reaching out to a student’s parents—than teachers are able to realize in the constraints of the school environment. The power of mentors lies in their ability to push pupils to become agents of their own educational trajectories and destinies.
This policy brief explores how European policymakers can design mentoring and other educational support projects to be an integral part of the educational landscape, and explains why it is important for them to do so. It highlights examples of successful mentoring experiences that focus on cultivating the hidden talents and potential of children of immigrants, countering prevailing narratives about these children possessing an educational deficit and needing to “catch up” in school. Finally, the brief summarizes current research on the benefits of mentoring and offers recommendations for program development and for policymakers at the EU level.
This policy brief is part of a series produced by the SIRIUS Network in collaboration with MPI Europe, which focuses on how policies at the EU level and within individual Member States can better support the education outcomes of young people with a migrant background.