Education remains a critical element of government policy in the twenty-first century. A society with strong educational outcomes will have a better chance for economic and social development, and realize the potential of its citizens. Strong education systems allow societies to become equitable and meritocratic at the same time in a balanced way, facilitating both social mobility and inclusion. Education empowers people to participate fully in the community and strengthens democracies.
European Union policy has underlined the importance of education, notably in its most recent EU growth and competitiveness strategy, EU2020. The strategy sets ambitious targets for the improvement of educational results: reducing school drop-out rates to below 10%, and ensuring that at least 40% of 30-34 year old citizens have completed tertiary education by 2020. In order to achieve this goal, the European Commission has developed an Education and Training Strategy (ET2020) based on strategic objectives that include promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship. While European countries have well-established education systems, there exists a strong inequality of access to schooling and quality of education for socio-economically disadvantaged communities across the continent, in particular for migrant groups. Children with migrant background are disproportionally represented among dropouts and the lowest performing percentiles because they have a number of critical, and specific, education needs that are not currently met through mainstream education policy.
The SIRIUS European Policy Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background organised a conference in Brussels on 19th and 20th November 2014entitled “Helping children and youth with migrant background succeed: Making schools matter for all“. During the conference, the results of SIRIUS’ work in the areas of implementing education policies, improving interactions in the classroom and involving communities in schooling were presented. 125 participants, including national and EU policy makers, practitioners and stakeholders, gathered in the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions to discuss these results and highlight appropriate targeted measures and mainstreaming policies to promote the development of national and EU policies on high quality inclusive education based on evidence and tested in practice.
The Bulgarian National meeting organized by Multi Kulti Collective took place on 11 November 2014 in the EU House in Sofia. “Challenges in the field of education for migrants and refugees in Bulgaria” focused on access to education and the lack of targeting integration measures for migrant and refugee pupils/students. Being an external border of the EU Bulgaria accepted more than 12.000 asylum seekers in the last 1,5 years. Most of them were granted international protection and that’s why the National meeting had a special focus on refugees as well.All the main stakeholders such as Ministry of Education, Regional Inspectorate of Education, State Agency for Child Protection, State Agency for Refugees, representatives of schools and universities with high concentration of migrants/refugee pupils/students, international and local NGO’s working on integration and education of migrants/refugees, migrant/refugee NGO’s, researchers participated in the event.
Multi Kulti Collective is a new member of SIRIUS (2014) and that’s why the first National Meeting was a good opportunity to present the network in more details. The first panel focused on the the difficulties related to the integration of migrants/refugees in the educational system in Bulgaria and presenting European good practices in the field of integration of refugees and migrants in the educational system. The second one consisted of group work led by facilitators on the problems in the field of pre-primary and primary/secondary/higher education for migrants and refugees in Bulgaria. The event finished with mutual understanding for developing an action plan for next steps at national level.
The 2nd Baltic Inter-Ministerial Round Table was hosted by Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science and Vilnius Lithuanian House in Vilnius, took place on the 3-4 November 2014. The topic of the round table was the Inclusive education policy for children of returning nationals and nationals living abroad.
The round table was one of the activities organised within the SIRIUS Network (European Policy network for education of children with minority and migrant background) by Hanna Siarova (PPMI), who also act as Sirius national coordinator for Lithuania. The round table was organised as a follow-up to the 1st Inter-Ministerial Round table in Riga where participants identified specific policy topics on which they could focus further.
The aim of Vilnius round table was to bring together different policy makers dealing with integration of returnee pupils in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania:
To learn and exchange knowledge on approaches towards integration of returning nationals into education in the Baltic States and to support learning of Baltic nationals living abroad. Participants of the round table were able to learn more about Lithuanian approach towards integration of returnee pupils into Lithuanian schools and support of Lithuanian citizens who live outside Lithuania outlined in the state strategy ‘Global Lithuania’. The participants also met practitioners, policy makers and coordinators of specific projects working with integration of returnees and discover good practice initiatives within Lithuanian approach, as well as assess challenges of the current policy.
To identify strengths of national strategies and to assess transferability of good practice measures in the neighbouring Baltic countries. Participants provided feedback and reflections on the approaches/measures learnt based on Lithuanian example, as well as contributions of other Baltic countries and shared ideas on their possible improvements and transferability to Baltic countries context.
To elaborate concrete steps on implementation of certain measures/policies on education of returnees in Baltic countries.
On 11th November took place in Zagreb the Croatian National Meeting entitled “Education of Children with Migrant Background in Croatia: between policy and practice”. It was organised by the Forum for Freedom in Education, the Ministry of Education and the Education and Teacher Training Agency. At the meeting attended policy makers, teachers, school administration representatives, CSO representatives and local authorities, totally 30 people.
The first part of the presentations was presentation about SIRIUS project results in the last 3 years (including recommendations for improvement of education policies and practises in the field of education of children with migrant background); presentation of the MIPEX index for Croatia (with the focus on index of education). In the second part the representative of MoE presented activities of the ministry in the field of inclusive education and the representative of the Education and Teacher Training Agency presented activities of the agency in the field of teacher training programmes developed for promoting inclusive practises and multicultural competencies.
In the third part panellist were discussing the practise from the perspective of the civil society and the role of CSO in promoting inclusive education, the representative from the Centre for Peace Studies presented project of the CSO that are focused on asylum seekers and the representative from one elementary school was presenting their challenges and their success on including children with migrant background in everyday school life.
The discussion after the panellist had their introductory was very fruitful and most of the participants were coming from schools so they had the opportunity to share their practise and experience.