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National Round Table Discussion in Riga: productive work and interest of policy makers

On Tuesday, May 14, at the Kalnciems quarter cultural center deliberative session “Education for everyone: WE only, no THEY in School” was held by SIRIUS network support and efforts of Think&Do Fund “Global Development Institute”. Wide range of school professionals, non-governmental, academic, municipal and state actors has shared their previous experiences working with migrant students, as well as current policies and research results. Finally, collective creativity of participants has resulted in policy implications.

Think-and-Do tank „Global Development Institute” in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science, in the framework of  Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission-funded project  SIRIUS: European Policy Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background  organized  the National Round Table on migrant education  „Education for Everyone: WE only, no THEY in School”. The event was held in Riga, on Tuesday, May 14th, from 11.00 to 15.00, at Kalnciema Cultural Block, Kalnciema Street 35. Event was moderated by policy analyst Dace Akule, the key national player in the field of migrant policy.

Aim of the National Round Table discussion was to identify issues and best practices and analyze integration of immigrant children and youth in the Latvian education system. Special focus was made on ways how to prevent early school leaving among immigrant children and youngsters. Agenda for Discussion included exploration of relevant country currents – the statistics, findings from recent studies, results of the SIRIUS study carried out in 2012. Emphasis all the time was kept on the educational needs of immigrants, where participation of two migrant students has played the crucial role, and solutions proposed by the state education authorities.  Finally participants have modeled the necessary changes in education policy with regard to access to education for immigrant children and youth, and its quality.

SIRIUS network was represented by General Coordinator, Dr. Miquel Àngel Essomba Gelabert, professor of Pedagogy of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Dr. Essomba has given an inspirational introduction on SIRIUS network and has presented guidelines for education strategies which meet diverse needs of migrant students.

Education and immigration experts, as well as representatives of immigrant population – students, and supportive professionals – have first discussed the status quo of education for immigrant students. Majority of speakers have admitted the privilege of Latvia having established bilingual education system with elements of intercultural education in multilingual schools, variety of Latvian language learning tools specially designed for migrants, but on the flip side – the lack of support for children with rare in Latvian mother tongues, coming from Kenya, Afghanistan,  Georgia, as well as lack of adaptation classes and above all – shortage of desegregated data , necessary to design immigrant needs based policy solutions.

Participants have agreed there systemic change is needed to establish inclusive education in Latvia, but in the meantime ad hoc strategies, presented by schools and designed for definite migrant population will be an asset.  Also, Ministry of Education has drawn everybody’s attention to the urgent need to establish such a program in kindergarten, because the majority of newly arrived migrant children are at pre -school age. Exploring pedagogical strategies, ministry representative, followed my many other participants, has emphasized the significance of peer support in acquisition of different language and culture. Early school leaving among children with migrant descent is higher than among natives (16% vs. 11, 8 %), and one of the reasons is the lack of understanding of what has being toughed, which even more diminishes their motivation to study.

Exploring effective strategies, representative of the State agency for Latvian language acquisition has emphasized whole school approach – continues work with extended school teams, including parents and local community members.

Modeling policy implications, participants have emphasized collaboration /networking and common projects of all the stake holders involved, including multi – stake holder political lobbying activities, including request of more funds to be released for the implementation of situative, school based strategies for immigrant integration measures. Distance learning opportunities where emphasized, as well as services of assistants for newly arrived students, where parents and helping professionals could play this role.

Liesma Ose,

Think-and-Do tank „Global Development Institute”


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