While many countries in Europe have high-quality, well-established education systems, socio-economically disadvantaged communities across the continent suffer from inequality of access and lower-quality education. Children from these groups, including children with a migrant background—those who are immigrants themselves or have immigrant parents—tend to underperform in the classroom compared with their native peers. Children from a migrant background (defined here as from countries outside the European Union) have particular educational needs that mainstream education policy does not always meet, including overcoming language barriers and discrimination. Recognizing the importance of education in allowing countries to realize their potential, the European Commission has developed a series of goals in the form of the Education and Training Strategy (ET 2020) to help Member States reduce school dropout and increase rates of tertiary education completion.
In 2011, the European Commission launched the SIRIUS Policy Network on the Education of Children and Youngsters with a Migrant Background to study and propose ways that EU countries can address the needs of disadvantaged groups while working to meet the goals outlined in ET 2020. The network facilitates the ability of experts, policymakers, and practitioners to gather and share policy ideas and practices to improve outcomes for these children.
This series of policy papers produced by experts from within the SIRIUS Network in collaboration with MPI Europe 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.
Enhancing EU Education Policy: Building a Framework to Help Young People of Migrant Background Succeed
This policy brief sketches how children with a migrant background face the most urgent needs in Europe’s education systems. The overall rate for early school leaving is 33 percent for third-country nationals—more than double the overall 14.1 percent rate within the European Union, for example. Rates of youth unemployment and young people “Not in Education, Employment or Training” (NEET) are significantly higher for first- and second-generation migrants than for their native peers in most EU Member States. The brief examines a number of proposals for ways that local, national, and regional institutions can help educational systems become more community-centered, systemic, and inclusive in order to close the school achievement gap between native and immigrant students.
The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of enhancing education policy is available here.
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.
The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of mentoring is available here.
This policy brief uses the concept of professional capacity to frame SIRIUS’s recommendations regarding school quality. It identifies four key areas for improvement: language diversity, the learning environment, social psychology and acculturation, and community connections. To develop expertise in these areas, the brief outlines three strategies for policymakers:
- build professional learning communities that focus on diversity;
- build networks of expertise on diversity;
- and develop teacher training programs dedicated to diversity.
The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of capacity building is available here.
This policy brief provides key points and good practice examples on what comprehensive language support might look like. Recent studies have identified a number of tools and approaches that can provide effective language support for migrant children, including adequate initial assessment of language skills, language induction programmes that ensure a smooth transition into mainstream classrooms, ongoing language support, training for teachers of all subjects, and valuing students’ mother tongue. Despite these suggestions, there is no blueprint for what ideal language support might look like, and many European Union (EU) Member States are facing gaps in implementation of best practices.
The thematically focused SIRIUS Newsletter on different aspects of language support is available here.
Regional Policy Paper
Migrant Education Opportunities in the Baltic States: strong dependence on the level of school preparedness
The purpose of this policy paper is to explore the national policy measures related to pupils with a migrant background in the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The paper aims to identify similarities of policy responses to specific educational needs related to migrant background and point out the differences in approaches, bringing forward the examples of successful practice. The paper serves as an overview of the topic in the Baltic region, which aims to enable mutual learning and inspire the development of most effective strategies in order to shape education policies towards greater inclusiveness to respond to the diverse needs of the learners.