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EU: New debate on integration among Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Ministers

EU Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Ministers vowed to better use education and sport to prevent social exclusion and radicalisation at their 23 and 24 November 2015 Council meeting. The Luxembourg Presidency introduced these issues on the agenda for new debate, with a briefing and discussion paper in response to the current refugee crisis, though talks were dominated by the Paris attacks and Brussels security threat.

The Council meeting reached the following outcomes:

  • Youth ministers discussed (watch video here) the role of youth policy and youth work (including a compendium of state-collected best practice) to promote integration by getting different sectors to cooperate together: education, youth, culture and sports sectors. They discussed the need for an integrated approach, using youth work as instruments of inclusion including volunteers, promoting education for citizenship, using several methodologies for language learning, coordinating actions through the EU Youth Work Plan and making better use of Erasmus+ funds.
  • Youth Ministers agreed on an EU Youth Work Plan for 2016-2018, where one of the six priorities is to establish an Expert Group defining the specific contribution of youth work and non/informal learning in responding to the increasing number of young migrants and refugees.
  • Education ministers discussed education and training strategies for recently arrived migrants and people with a migrant background. Ministers underlined in particular the need to recognize the competences of newly arrived migrants and to implement intensive language learning. 
  • New Council Conclusions on early school leaving emphasise that early school leaving rates are particularly alarming for certain groups with low-socio-economic status, such as children with migrant backgrounds. These Council Conclusions calls for more effective language training and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity in early childhood education and care, while initial teacher training could better cover skills such as classroom and diversity management.
  • Education Ministers specifically discussed education and migration (watch video here), particularly practical and financial problems due to the high number of newcomers. Ministers wanted to focus on language learning, assessment of prior qualifications, promoting European values, avoiding geographic concentration of migrants, preparing teachers/trainers and learners/parents for greater diversity at school and increasing best practice exchange between Member States.
  • Culture ministers adopted Conclusions on intercultural dialogue calling on the Commission and High Representative to submit a strategy approach and guiding principles to culture. These conclusions aim to improve understanding between migrants and the receiving society and to contribute to the European Union’s broader strategy on migration following the October 2015 European Council. Links will be established with other EU-level integration networks and databases (like the European Website on Integration). A series of meetings of experts will take stock of existing good practices and policies for culture and arts to contribute to migrant and refugee integration, leading to a handbook on good practices in 2016.
  • Sports ministers discussed the educational potential of sport to help disadvantaged youth, including migrants, to find their place and foster social integration and intercultural dialogue.