Migration and education
The presence of significant numbers of migrant children has far-reaching implications for education systems in Europe. A Green Paper adopted by the European Commission on 3 July 2008 opened the debate on how education policies may better address the challenges posed by immigration and internal EU mobility flows. Through the Green Paper, the Commission launched a public consultation on the issue, inviting interested parties to send their contributions to the debate by the end of 2008. These contributions have been synthesised in a consultation report and can also be consulted individually.Key issues of the Green paper and the consultation:
- how to prevent the creation of segregated school settings, so as to improve equity in education;
- how to accommodate the increased diversity of mother tongues and cultural perspectives and build intercultural skills;
- how to adapt teaching skills and build bridges with migrant families and communities.
According to both international and national data, many migrant children in the European Union suffer from educational disadvantage in comparison to their native peers: early school leaving is more common among them and enrolment in higher education is lower. What is even more worrying is that in some countries second generation migrant pupils show lower school performance than the first generation. This indicates that the social divide may deepen over time. At the same time, there are clear signs that tendencies towards segregation along socio-economic lines intensify, as socially advantaged parents tend to withdraw their children from schools with high numbers of migrant pupils. Disparities between schools are therefore on the rise.
This situation may undermine the chances of young migrant pupils for successful integration in the labour market later in life. If migrant children leave school with an experience of underachievement and segregation which carries on in their later lives, the risk is that such a pattern is perpetuated into the next generation.
The Green Paper analysed the causes that may contribute to the current situation in which many migrants face educational disadvantage. Some causes relate to the individual background of migrant pupils, but data also point to the importance of education systems and policies. In fact, evidence shows that policies can make a difference. The Green Paper undertook a brief review of approaches that may foster educational success for migrant pupils. It indicated that those systems which strongly prioritise equity in education are also the most effective in integrating migrant pupils.
Strategies need to be defined and implemented at the national or regional levels, but peer learning at the European level may prove valuable. The Green Paper aimed to provoke an exchange of views on how to address these challenges at all levels, and also to inquire how the EU might in future support Member States in formulating their education policies in this area. In addition, it explored the future of the 1977 Directive (77/486/EEC) on the education of children of workers from other Member States, the implementation of which has proved unsatisfactory so far.
Results of the consultationThe public consultation launched by the Green Paper received 101 responses, most of them from stakeholders' organisations. Contributors welcomed the Commission's initiative and highlighted the value added of a debate at EU level. Respondents underlined a number of common challenges faced by the EU Member States, such as the ones mentioned above, and particularly the need to break the link between socio-economic and educational disadvantage. Other key challenges mentioned were the lack of coordination between the different policies addressed to migrant children and their families or the absence of comprehensive equal opportunities policies.
Contributors also highlighted a number of appropriate policy responses to tackle these challenges, e.g., developing closer partnerships with parents and migrant communities or providing additional support to migrant pupils in form of mentoring, tutoring, guidance and cultural mediators. The results of the public consultation were discussed in a conference in Brussels that brought together a number of stakeholders on 20th October 2009. See also the conference conclusions
To know more
- Council conclusions on the education of children with a migrant background (November 2009)
- Green Paper "Migration & mobility: challenges and opportunities for EU education systems" – COM(2008) 423
- Annex to the Green Paper - SEC(2008) 2173
- Green Paper "Migration and Mobility" - Citizen's Summary
- Press release "Migrant children and education: a challenge for EU education systems", 3 July 2008
- FAQ: Migration and Mobility: Challenges and Opportunities for EU education systems
- Background report by the European Forum on Migration Studies of the University of Bamberg: Education and Migration. Strategies for integrating migrant children in European schools and societies
- Individual responses received to the public consultation on "Migration and mobility: challenges and opportunities for EU education systems"