Adult learning and integration
When a migrant, refugee or asylum seeker arrives in a new country, providing them with effective learning is key to supporting their integration. It is vital to ensuring that they can access labour market opportunities and make an economic contribution to host nations. However, there are a wide range of contexts for migration. Movements could be within the European Union or European Economic Area, often involving highly skilled and linguistically capable workers, or refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants from outside Europe, who may arrive with little or no ability to speak the language of host nations.
Some examples of practice
The examples below highlight some innovative approaches to using learning to promote integration in the UK, in particular looking at those that focus on more challenging contexts and which are likely to be of interest for practitioners engaged in this field.
Language development through empowerment: Reflect ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) was developed in the UK and takes a different approach to language support as part of the process of integration. Based on the work of the Brazilian educationalist, Paulo Freire, it uses a structured technique to empower learners to be more open and have more input into their own learning. A resource pack is available for practitioners and an evaluation validated the effectiveness of the approach.
Holistic approach to supporting the social, educational and economic integration: The Bridges Programmes agency in Glasgow, Scotland, provides specialist support to help people into work, education and training. The support programme available includes ‘life-skills’ support for refugees, work-focused employability support building on individuals’ previous skills and experience, and work placements to offer develop skills in the UK context. Resources available include a toolkit used for work with clients, which was developed in collaboration with The Open University, and a toolkit on empowering asylum seekers.
New technologies to support learning and integration: The UK’s MoLeNET programme uses handheld digital technologies to support learning. Several of its projects were targeted at migrants, asylum seekers and refugees (particularly in connection with learning English and using peer learning). Examples of such projects and their benefits are discussed in a British Council publication, ‘Innovations in English language teaching for migrants and refugees’ and a study that accompanied the MoLeNET programme.
Using a ‘Conversation Club’ to assist integration through language: The Conversation Club in Sheffield, England, combines support to learn and practise language skills with ‘extended activities’ such as weekend walks, museum visits, football, and cinema visits. The aim is to reduce social isolation and promote integration using language learning as the basis for a range of activities which are planned by the learners.
What about integration in your country?
I want to hear from other EPALE users of examples they are aware of, such as toolkits or new approaches, which could support practice in this important dimension of adult learning. Let me know about integration activities that have impressed you in the comments box below.
Ian Atkinson is Associate Director at Ecorys UK, where he leads on employment and labour markets policy and research work. His research background and interests include employability interventions, social inclusion and results-based payment mechanisms.