A Clear Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe

The European Union has underlined the importance of education, notably in its most recent 10 year EU growth and competitiveness strategy, EU 2020. 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 olds have completed tertiary education by 2020. This goal was developed from and is supported by the Education and Training Strategy (ET 2020), which is based on strategic objectives that include promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship.

ClassroomWhile 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 migrants coming from a low socio-economic background. According to EU data, 8.3 million young people in the EU Member States (3.1 million under 15 and 5.2 million aged 15-24) were born abroad, while the number of second-generation young adults (aged 15-34) are estimated at over four million. The youth unemployment and young people “Not in Education, Employment or Training” (NEET) rates are significantly higher for first and second generation migrants than for their native peers in most EU Member States. The EU Migrant Integration Indicators indicate that the share of early school leaving among foreign-born learners in the EU is nearly twice as high as among the total population. Eurostat’s 2011 statistical report on Migrants in Europe also shows that the shares are higher for second-generation youth with migrant parents. Clearly, young people with migrant background have a number of critical and specific education needs that are still not met and may not be compensated for through current education policies or in the classroom. Updating the agenda on the education of migrant learners may help EU Member States to reach their common targets for a smart and inclusive economic growth and against youth unemployment. For example, the EU’s 2013 report on Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration estimates that closing the gap in early school leaving rates for foreign-born learners would bring the EU 30% closer to its headline target of reducing this rate to 10% and prevent half a million young people from leaving school early, which accounts for 8.7% of all early school leavers in the EU.

Agenda and supporting Recommendations

petit 3x1,85The SIRIUS Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background has spent the past three years debating policy priorities for migrant education and inclusion. EU and national stakeholder meetings, conferences, peer reviews and site visits have contributed to our knowledge on how education systems must change to provide all learners with the skills and knowledge to perform to their potential in today’s diverse societies.

Summarising the results of these activities, the Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe and the supporting recommendations for EU institutions and for Member State authorities present a vision on migrant education and a set of policy recommendations that aim to promote a more inclusive education system and lead to a decrease in the achievement gap between pupils with and without a migrant background. Migration Policy Group, as SIRIUS’ Communications Officer, developed a first draft based on the outcomes of the EU stakeholder meetings that have taken place since September 2013, as well as recommendations from numerous SIRIUS publications. This text was improved upon through a consultative process with the SIRIUS Steering Committee, SIRIUS’ national and collaborative partners, as well as EU stakeholders from August to October 2014.

The final version of this document is well supported by a wide variety of actors who aim to help raise and spread a strong message for a more inclusive education policy including for immigrant learners.

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sirius agendaThe document includes:

  • A Clear Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe
  • Supporting document: Recommendations on improving education for children and young people with a migrant (for both Educational Authorities in Member States and EU Institutions)
  • Endorsements for the Agenda and Recommendations on Migrant Education
  • Bibliography

Read press release

See video summarising the Agenda

Migrant Education Platform: Consultation with European Stakeholders on Recommendations for the Migrant Education agenda

European Union policy underlines 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 aren’t currently met through mainstream education policy.

The SIRIUS network on the education of children and young people with a migration background has spent the past three years debating policy priorities for migrant education and inclusion. Stakeholder meetings, conferences, peer reviews and site visits have contributed to a common vision on how education systems must change to provide all pupils with the skills and knowledge to perform to their potential in today’s diverse societies. Summarising the results of these activities, and the EU stakeholder meetings in particular, a common vision on migrant education and a set of policy recommendations has been developed that aims to promote a more inclusive education system and lead to a decrease in the achievement gap between pupils with and without a migrant background.

On 29th September, Migration Policy Group brought together European stakeholders with the objective of finding a consensus on the vision and the recommendations. Stakeholders representing students, adults, education councils, language diversity supporters and migrants commented on the document from their viewpoint, and concrete proposals were set forward in order to improve the reception of the document by national and EU level decision makers. Written comments from those stakeholders not able to attend will be collected until the 10th October, while at the same time comments from national SIRIUS partners will also be welcome in the same time frame.

The agreed version will be presented in the European Parliament on 19 November at the SIRIUS Conference Helping Children and Youth with Migrant Background Succeed: Making Schools Matter for All, with the objective of presenting our vision for the future of the migrant education agenda in Europe.

How to improve social inclusion in education | Obessu

obessuHow can education systems be made as inclusive as possible? This is a very difficult question, which many people, organisations and institutions have tried to find an answer to. OBESSU worked on it partly through the 2013-2014 campaign “Education, we have a problem!” and was happy to see that the topic generated a lot of interest from different perspectives.

One organisation working on the question is the SIRIUS Network, a supporter of the OBESSU campaign whose main interest is “education of children and young people with a migrant background”. SIRIUS is now gathering input for a set of recommendations on migrant education which will be presented at a conference in the European Parliament in November.

On the 29th of September, OBESSU was invited to a meeting to give its view on the topic. OBESSU’s Secretary General Rasmus Åberg attended the meeting and although the presented draft recommendations included many good points, there were also several things to improve from an OBESSU perspective. For example, the draft recommendations mention VET as a tool for combating social exclusion in education and while OBESSU firmly believes that VET should be seen as a respectable alternative to academic studies, it is important to stress the lifelong learning approach – VET students should learn things that will be useful for them later in life and not only what is in the short-term interest of companies. It is also important that a VET track does not mean that the door is closed for future higher education studies.

Another area which OBESSU stressed is the importance of having a learner-centred approach in all stages of education. An education system where the learner is in focus is the best way to guarantee a sustained interest in fulfilling the started education.

The OBESSU comments will now be included in the SIRIUS recommendations and we keep our fingers crossed that they will be picked up and implemented by the relevant policy-makers.

If you are interested in the topic of social inclusion in education with a migrant perspective, keep your eyes open for the OBESSU Study Session “Deport Xenophobia from European Classrooms”, to be held in Budapest in February 2015.

Read OBESSU’s recently adopted “Guidelines on Social Inclusion in Education” here.

Written by Rasmus Åberg

Via Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions

School concentration – Stakeholder meeting report

On Friday, 17th January 2014, the European Network against Racism (a new SIRIUS collaborative partner) hosted a SIRIUS stakeholder meeting on the issue of school concentration. Following on from the SIRIUS Thematic Workshop on “Segregation and Integration in Education” in The Hague in October 2013, this meeting with European stakeholders aimed to develop practical and policy recommendations for schools and governments.

argument mapFirstly, the findings of the Thematic Workshop in The Hague highlighted why the issue of segregation is important, what actors can do to limit the negative effects of segregation and how to convince politicians of the importance of this issue. (Presentation and Argument map). PISA study findings emphasised that the concentration of immigrants in disadvantaged schools is the main issue to be tackled, as disadvantaged schools are associated with poorer outcomes for students than disadvantaged parental background. (Presentation). Some examples of factors that hinder equity are:

  • Early tracking
  • Free school choice
  • School policies that retain underperforming students
  • Lack of well-trained, long-term staff across all schools
  • Lack of political will
  • Unclear legislation (reaffirming the right of every child to access education)
  • Unnecessary administrative requirements

This was followed by case-studies from Austria (Presentation) and Belgium.

IMG_2893The issue of equal access to schools was also highlighted during the meeting. Do minority/migrant background students, such as Roma, for example, have equal access to the same types of schools as others or are they unnecessarily concentrated in special needs schools? In fact, to what extent is having a disability, being foreign or of a particular gender treated in a transversal way so that the school environment is adapted to the needs of each child? And as regards undocumented children school concentration can be an issue, as certain schools have registration procedures that enable access regardless of residence status while others may create obstacles.

It is clear from these examples that a number of strategies in the governance of education and segregation can be adopted to decrease school concentration:

1)      Immediate or short-term interventions such as desegregation bussing, or implementing quotas for example. However these must be followed up with sustainable school policies that encourage classes to remain mixed, as otherwise systematic level policies will be undermined.

2)      Indirect medium and long term measures (esp. in mixed neighbourhoods) that offer increased resources and quality of targeted schools, thus making them more attractive to parents.

3)      Measures that increase the quality of segregated schools which are not likely to become mixed because the neighbourhoods are highly segregated, such as intensified quality development, support and teacher resources.

Read the whole summary of the meeting, including a list of recommendations and participants here.