Migrant children are more likely to face segregation and end up in schools with fewer resources, new European Commission study says

Brussels, 12-4-2013 — /europawire.eu/ — This leads to under-performance and a high probability that the children will drop out of school early. The study suggests that Member States should provide targeted educational support for migrant children such as specialist teachers and systematic involvement of parents and communities to improve their integration.

The study examines national policies in support of newly arrived migrant children in 15 countries which have seen significant recent immigration flows: Austria, Belgium (Dutch-speaking community), the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. It finds that Denmark and Sweden have the best model, based on offering targeted support and a reasonable level of autonomy for schools. The other countries tend to focus on only one of these aspects, which means they do not achieve better results in the inclusion of migrant children.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: “Every child, from whatever background, deserves a fair chance in education to acquire the skills they need in life and to boost their job prospects. We need to improve our record in Europe on this and provide more support to vulnerable groups. We have to change the ethos which still exists in too many schools. Students who have grown up in the country are the first that need to adapt to migrant children. They should be encouraged to welcome them and we need the support of parents on this. If we fail to act, we risk creating a vicious circle where lack of opportunity leads to poor results in school and a greater likelihood of unemployment and poverty.”

The study’s analysis highlights the importance of school autonomy and of a holistic approach to educational support for new migrant children; this includes linguistic and academic support, parental and community involvement, and intercultural education. It says schools should avoid segregation as well as early selection of pupils in terms of ability, as this may disadvantage migrant children who are adapting to a new language. The study also underlines the need to improve monitoring and collection of statistics on access, participation and performance of migrant pupils and students.

The study’s findings reflect statistics from the OECD Programme for International Student

Assessment (PISA), which tests the skills and knowledge of 15 year olds. The OECD found that, in 2010, 25.9% of foreign born pupils in Europeabandoned education or training prematurely compared to 13% of pupils born in the country.


The Commission’s study finds that in most countries, schools are either left to themselves to follow broad national guidelines on the allocation of funds or, on the contrary, lack the autonomy to tailor support to individual needs and adjust national policies to local circumstances.

The study distinguishes 5 types of educational support systems:

The comprehensive support model (examples: Denmark, Sweden)

This provides continuous support in the areas which are most relevant to the inclusion of newly arrived migrant children: linguistic support, academic support, parental involvement, intercultural education and friendly learning environment.

The non-systematic support model (examples: Italy, Cyprus, Greece)

Characterized by a random approach in terms of the support provided. Policies are not always clearly articulated, effectively resourced or implemented. Teachers, parents and local communities are largely left without clear guidance.

The compensatory support model (examples: Belgium, Austria)

It includes all types of support policies, with continuous teaching of the host country language, but with rather weak academic support, early tracking of children’s ability and early division into ability groups. This model is ‘compensatory’ as it aims at correcting the differences, rather than tackling the initial disadvantage.

The integration model (example: Ireland)

Characterized by well-developed cooperation and intercultural education policies. Liaison between school, parents and local community is systematic, while intercultural learning is well integrated into the curricula and promoted in school daily life. It is not focused on linguistic support.

The centralised entry support model (examples: France, Luxembourg)

This model focuses on centralised reception of migrant children and the provision of academic support. It provides well-developed targeted support programmes for under-achieving pupils, as well as linguistic support and outreach to parents.

The independent study was conducted for the Commission by the Public Policy and Management Institute, Lithuania.

As part of its strategy for jobs and growth, the European Union encourages Member States to invest more in education in order to strengthen their economies and provide young people with skills needed on the labour market. EU countries have pledged to reduce the share of young people with poor basic skills (reading, maths, science) and of those who leave education prematurely by 2020. They agreed that the share of 15-year olds with insufficient abilities in reading, mathematics and science should be less than 15% by 2020, that the share of early leavers from education and training should be less than 10% and that the share of 30-34 year olds with tertiary educational attainment should be at least 40%.

Net migration to Europe has tripled since 1960. Teaching immigrant children is becoming a critical issue e.g. in 2009/2010 academic year there were 17.6% of pupils registered in Austrian schools had a first language other than German; in Greece the percentage of non-native pupils in primary and secondary schools has risen from 7.3% to 12% in the past five years.

For more information

Final Report

European Commission: Education and training

Androulla Vassiliou’s website

Follow Androulla Vassiliou onTwitter @VassiliouEU

Contacts :Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58); Twitter: @DennisAbbottDina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

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