Developing School Capacity for Diversity

schoolcapacity_policybriefFor children of migrant background, school quality is critical to ensuring academic success. Research shows that school quality has a greater impact on the education outcomes of migrant children compared to their peers of higher socioeconomic status or ethnic majority background. Therefore, any comprehensive strategy to improve the educational position of migrant children must work to improve the quality of schools themselves.

School quality, or professional capacity, encompasses the capacity of its teachers, administrators, and other staff. It can be measured by examining the content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and interpersonal skills of instructors; the level of responsibility administrators give teachers; and whether all staff work together in a cohesive, professional learning community. Schools with these communities, in which teachers work continuously to improve their teaching practices and learn from their colleagues, are more effective in encouraging student achievement in disadvantaged areas than are schools where teachers do little to reflect on their practices.

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:

  1. build professional learning communities that focus on diversity;
  2. build networks of expertise on diversity;
  3. and develop teacher training programs dedicated to diversity.

Download Policy Brief on School Capacity for Diversity

The Brief is also available for download in French, German and Spanish.

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.

Via Migration Policy Institute 

Teacher Training and Professional Capacity – Stakeholder meeting report

Participants of workshop for migrant teachers

On Thursday, 5th June 2014, Migration Policy Group hosted a SIRIUS stakeholder meeting on the topic of teacher training and professional capacity. This meeting followed on from a 1 ½ day meeting of migrant teachers where they discussed both important skill sets and policy recommendations on how to better equip teachers for diverse classrooms.

The stakeholder meeting brought together these teachers with a migration background, other educational practitioners and school leaders as well as researchers, policy makers and civil society organisations to discuss skills that teachers need in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. In addition, a focus was put on how teachers are prepared in teacher training institutions and supported during their career.

The meeting was opened by Sarah Cooke O’Dowd from the Migration Policy Group welcoming a group of about 30 participants. Eva Degler, also from the Migration Policy Group, continued by giving a short overview about the contents of capacity training, best practices and the role of the EU in enhancing teacher training (See Presentation).

Sabine Severiens

Sabine Severiens from the Erasmus University Rotterdam then presented recommendations from her research on professional capacities and areas of expertise together with the migrant teachers who shared their successful strategies and gave insights into their professional experiences (See Presentation). The SIRIUS Report on Building Professional Capacity concerning the educational position of migrant children had originally identified five main areas of expertise necessary for the professional capacity of teachers in diverse classrooms (language diversity, didactics, social psychology and identity development, parental involvement and school-community relationships). During the teacher meeting, they had also identified the need for additional space in the curriculum, training/familiarity with the development of migration history, diagnostic tests and the effectively utilising school surroundings as additional desired expertise.  It was striking that hardly any of the teachers present had received initial training. Moreover, it was left to their own initiative to attend in-service training and bring up issues of inclusive education in their schools.

Piet van Avermaet from the University of Ghent and the Centre for Diversity and Learning then spoke about how to respond to diversity in education, focussing on the role of multilingualism, teachers’ expectations of immigrant pupils and the challenge of rendering diversity a core issue for policy making in education (See Presentation).

DSCN4350The last hour of the meeting was spent discussing parental and community involvement, different strategies for second language learning and the positive impact of collaborative and open-minded school leadership. Centres of expertise should be developed in schools that include interdisciplinary teams which support each other and thus increase the capacity of the whole school. These centres would include teachers, psychologists, guidance councillors etc. This would supply vital support to teachers who agreed that, at present, they are largely left alone in responding to the needs of diverse learners. Making second language learning and intercultural education an integral part of teacher training curricula was also considered crucial. At present, universities across Europe do not or only sporadically offer such training modules. Ideally, such training should become a transversal issue that is woven through all levels of teacher training. In addition, more in-service training programmes should be offered and school leaders should strongly encourage professional development in this field. Lastly, a number of participants remarked that many projects are still incidental and very rarely evaluated, which renders impact assessment and informed policy-making difficult. Furthermore, their funding often means that they have support for only a limited period of time. Structural support for good practices is necessary to make them sustainable.

Meeting Report, Programme and Participants

Background Teacher training and professional capacity

The face of diversity: How to increase the representation of people with a migrant background in education – Stakeholder meeting report

On Wednesday, 19 March 2014, the Flemish Education Council (Vlaamse Onderwijsraad, VLOR) hosted a SIRIUS stakeholder meeting on the topic of the underrepresentation of people with a migration background in education. The meeting brought together European, national and local stakeholders in the field of integration and education to discuss policy developments and formulate concrete steps towards increasing the representation of people with a migrant background.

Sarah Cooke O'Dowd, SIRIUS and Sanghmitra Bhutani, VLOR
Sarah Cooke O’Dowd, SIRIUS and Sanghmitra Bhutani, VLOR

The meeting was opened by Sanghmitra Bhutani, representing the Flanders Forum of Ethnic Minorities, who gave an overview of the platforms’ work on ethnic diversity among education professionals and the current situation in Flanders. Mostapha Bouklloua presented the aims and activities of the Network of teachers with a migrant background in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, a project initiated by the government to increase the number of teachers with a migrant background in German schools. The third practitioner, Yasmin Naz from the National Centre for Multicultural Education (NAFO), outlined the current state of multicultural education and training in Norway.

Despite different national contexts, all speakers affirmed that so far, schools and governments have not been successful in reducing the mismatch between highly diverse student populations and a largely homogenous group of teachers, school leaders and parents’ representatives, although due to a lack of statistics, the total number of people with a migrant background are often missing for each school or community. In addition, they shared the concern that there is little awareness of the potential of migrant educational professionals to function as role models and cultural mediators.

The presentations were followed by a plenary debate that mainly addressed the following questions:

What hinders people with a migrant background from becoming education professionals?

1) Many pupils with an immigrant background do not perceive the teacher profession as an attractive career path. Reasons include:

a)  Their own school experience has not been very positive. Too many students with a migrant background feel that they are not considered a vital and respected member of their school community, whose needs are acknowledged and catered to. Hence, there is little motivation to return to this system for a professional career.

→  Schools need to become more inclusive. To advance inclusive education teachers need to be prepared for the needs of a diverse class room and receive intercultural training. In addition, inclusive education requires a more democratic set-up of schools. More open governance procedures in schools would help to engage students with a migrant background in their own education. To foster a sense of ownership and belonging, students and parents need to be represented in school government. Teachers and school leaders should reach out and seek the advice of inclusive parent and student bodies when making decisions that will affect the school community.

→  Students and education professionals need to have more appreciation of diversity, but this can only be realised if schools are developed as learning spaces that confront students with cultural and social differences.

b) Teacher salaries are seen as not very high and there is little awareness of professional mobility within the teaching profession.

→   Governments should consider monetary incentives for teachers with a migrant background as a direct investment into the education of pupils with a migrant background. Upward mobility in the education sector and career development, e.g. in school management or teacher unions, needs to be promoted more strongly among students with a migration background.

→  Adjusted salaries and higher awareness about career development would also address a possible preference among students with a migration background for high-status professional fields such as law or medicine.

c) The advantages of working in the educational sector are not clearly communicated.

→  Awareness campaigns should stress that teaching is a profession of high societal value and that teachers can have a crucial impact on the educational and personal development of their students. Students with a migrant background in particular can fulfil an important role model function and need to be made aware of their potential and value in the education system.

DSCN39352) Teachers with qualifications from abroad face strong barriers to getting foreign diplomas recognised. There are little opportunities to “re-qualify” or attend additional training to obtain any missing country-specific qualifications.

→  More opportunities, such as bridging programmes, teacher traineeships and specialized language courses need to be offered to facilitate up-skilling of teachers from abroad. Current efforts in the medical sector show that this is achievable where there is political will and adequate resources.

3) Teachers with a migrant background are confronted with discrimination in the labour market both in the application procedure and their daily work life. Many schools are still hesitant to hire teachers with foreign sounding names or do not see the added value of a diverse staff. In addition, teachers with a migrant background report that they also face discrimination from their colleagues, students and parents.

→  Policies need to create strong incentives to hire teachers with a migrant background, for instance by increasing the staff budget for schools when hiring a teacher from an underrepresented group in the teaching profession.

→  Student teachers and teachers at the beginning of their career need better support from (migrant) teacher organisations or mentors.

4) Many students with a migrant background cannot become teachers simply because their secondary education does not qualify them for university entry. Therefore, the issue of underrepresentation already needs to be addressed on the level of secondary education.

5) Migrant women often lack confidence in the skills that they need to enter the education profession, for instance when the language of instruction is not their first language or they are not well acquainted with the national education system. Their soft skills should be highlighted and improved links need to be put in place with labour and family policies.

What are the obstacles to successful policy implementation?

1) Insufficient data on the numbers of people with a migrant background holding specific jobs in the education sector render it difficult to monitor the developments in this area.

→  Governments need to gather more statistics on teachers’ social, cultural and migration backgrounds and define clear targets in order to reflect the diversity of the student population.

2) Current attempts to diversify teaching staff often remain on a project level and are therefore hardly ever mainstreamed into a comprehensive policy framework. These projects are often carried out by private organisations with no or little involvement of the Ministry of Education.

→  Governments need to play an active role and work towards structural implementation of such initiatives, which would then allow successful initiatives to go beyond project status and focus on long-term objectives.

→  A more structural implementation would also facilitate a cross-sectional approach that targets this issue on all school levels, rather than focussing only on certain age groups.

3) The low representation of teachers with a migrant background is a symptom of profound social inequalities and discrimination in education policies.

→  Representation can only be increased if measures are part of a structural policy reform to make schools more inclusive.

4) A cross-sectoral approach is not currently in place as regards the training of teachers with a migrant background. In general, it is very difficult for people to move between pre-primary, school, higher and adult education sectors.

→ There needs to be more flexibility for practitioners to move between different education levels.


What opportunities are there to push the agenda of migrant representation in education?

1) Initiatives are most effective when a strong coalition is formed that involves as many stakeholders as possible. The private sector should be included amongst the stakeholders, but they can work as an impulse at most. The public sector must be on board.

2) Other employment areas, such as the care and medical sector, have been rather successful in targeting people of migrant backgrounds. So far, little has been done in the education sector to implement such campaigns, yet it seems much can be gained from targeted campaigning and support.

3) Many countries will face a serious lack of teachers in the coming years. This labour shortage should be highlighted so as to create a sense of political urgency, which could be a powerful starting point for advocacy work.


Summary, agenda, participants’ list
Presentation – Sanghmitra Bhutani (VLOR)
Presentation – Yasmin Naz (NAFO)
Background paper

SIRIUS Collaborative Partner NEPC organises two events in December

NEPC_100x100The Network of Education Policy Centres (NEPC), based in Croatia,  addresses the need for independent and information-based policy analysis, advocacy for equity, and effective, sustainable solutions in education policy processes. The vision of the NEPC is to develop into a strong formally established network of leading education policy centers, a global actor with local and regional expertise in education policy that promotes the values of an open, democratic, multicultural, and pluralistic society. Policy in NEPC’s understanding involves implementation and evaluation as well as the formulation of new policies. The mission of NEPC is promoting flexible, participatory, evidence-based, transparent education policies reflecting open society values, which mean proactive policy initiatives as well as advocacy and monitoring activities of governments and national education systems. NEPC has 23 member organisations in 20 countries and 5 individual members.

The NEPC is currently organising two important events for December:

1) Teaching History for Democratic Citizenship. How does history education contribute to social cohesion and respect for diversity today?

An initiative within the 3rd EUCIS-LLL Lifelong Learning Week and the NEPC Project “Making History Work for Tolerance: A Research-Based Strategy to Reduce the Intolerant Usage of History Teaching in the EU”, this event is hosted by Members of the European Parliament Ms Malika Benarab-Attou (France, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance) and Mr Oleg Valjalo (Croatia, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats). The Project addresses the need to reduce political manipulations of history teaching in order to increase tolerance among the majority and minority population (including migrants) in EU countries and to reduce xenophobia. The project aims to support intercultural dialogue through history teaching in 4 EU countries (Denmark, Latvia, Romania, and Slovakia).

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2) The Sustainability of Divided Education

The final activity of the project “Leadership for Local Community: Empowering Teachers and Youth for Active Role in Local Communities”, this conference is envisaged as a meeting point of international, national and local stakeholders in order for them to question the sustainability of various forms of divided education. The Conference will address the topic of divided education and its impact on civic attitudes of students attending separate schools. The Conference will analyse contemporary trends within inclusive education and link them to existing practice.

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