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Global education monitoring report, 2019: Migration, displacement and education: building bridges, not walls

The Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM) is an annual report published by UNESCO to track progress towards the education targets in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2019 GEM Report focuses on migration and displacement. It presents evidence on the implications of different types of migration and displacement for education systems. It also looks at the impact that reforming education curricula, approaches to pedagogy, and teacher preparation can have on addressing the challenges.

Key findings in the European context

Immigrants may be nominally included but practically excluded. For instance, they may be kept in preparatory classes too long. Some countries separate students with lower academic ability, often those with immigrant backgrounds, into less demanding tracks. This compromises subsequent opportunities. In addition, immigrants tend to be concentrated in specific neighbourhoods and in schools with lower academic standards and performance levels, which negatively affects their educational achievement.

Immigrant children may advance relative to peers in home countries but lag behind peers in host countries. In the EU, twice as many foreign-born youth as natives left school early in 2017. In 2015, first-generation immigrants in OECD countries were 32% less likely, and second-generation immigrants 15% less likely, than natives to attain basic proficiency in reading, mathematics, and science. The age at which people consider or undertake migration is a key determinant of their education investment, interruption, experience, and outcomes.

Teachers affected by migration and displacement are inadequately prepared to carry out the more complex tasks this entails, such as managing multilingual classrooms and helping children who need psychosocial support. In six European countries, half of teachers felt there was insufficient support to manage diversity in the classroom. Teacher recruitment and management policies often react too slowly to emerging needs. For example, Germany needs an additional 42,000 teachers and educators.

Curricula and textbooks often include outdated depictions of migration and displacement, despite broad public support for change in some contexts. 81% of respondents in EU countries agreed that school materials should cover ethnic diversity. By not addressing diversity in education, countries ignore its power to promote social inclusion and cohesion.

Recognition of qualifications and prior learning can ease entry into labour markets, especially concerning professional qualifications. If migrants and refugees lack access to employment that uses their skills, they are unlikely to develop them further. However, less than one-quarter of global migrants are covered by a bilateral qualifications recognition agreement. Existing mechanisms are often fragmented or too complex to meet immigrants’ and refugees’ needs, and they end up underutilised.

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Integration Expert