The tragic events related to the recent increased wave of migrants arriving in Europe fleeing from war or hard living conditions, have revealed the profound economic and social factors that give rise to mass migration. Both the sheer number of people escaping hardship and danger and the different types of countries involved highlight the permanent character of these migratory movements. This situation confronts us with the need to make choices that go beyond the current inadequate and unsteady emergency plans and implement systematic policies for resettlement and inclusion on a broader societal level.
The arrival of migrants and refugees, many of whom are children, is a challenge and a great educational opportunity for the European school systems. Helping rootless people to regain a sense of stability and direction for their life requires interventions that take into account not only the socioeconomic, but also educational, psychological and cultural factors of both the refugees’ and the hosts’.
Even though a large body of literature on the social inclusion of refugees is available today, investigation into refugee children and their education remains relatively underdeveloped, especially as for the implementation of school-based interventions and programmes. Research shows that refugee children have multiple complex needs, as they can suffer from psychological trauma and emotional distress. Moreover, they are required to rapidly adjust to a new language and culture as well as to build a sense of personal identity and belonging to the new place and often act as interpreters for their parents on various levels.
Generally, schooling in the new country proves to be a difficult experience for refugee children, as they face linguistic and cultural challenges. Children with little or no prior education in their country are frequently unable to cope with the demands posed by the new educational settings. Language barriers have a special impact both on participation and academic success. As a result, refugee students may experience a sense of disengagement and loneliness. However, within an inclusive, accessible and fair educational system, which offers adequate support and emphasises a universal right to education, they may be successfully included.
Including refugee students is a process that cannot be delimited to the educational success of these learners, since it involves utilising the ability of whole communities to overcome barriers to learning and to develop valuable resources. Accordingly, adopting a holistic, whole-community and whole-school approach is vital to promote inclusion of refugee children in school. Such approach focuses on school ethos, welcoming environments, good induction communication, first and second language support, specialised teacher education support and adapted curricula, home liaison, community links, pastoral care, and preventing racism and bullying. Participation and learning fostered through holistic approaches help refugee children build a sense of belonging and self-confidence that in turn enables them to develop new relationships in and out school. They also help all local children and adults see refugee students not just as aliens or victims, but also as valuable partners and resources for learning and intercultural understanding.
The roundtable aims:
- to shed light on how schools and school systems in different European (and international) countries deal with the educational needs of refugee children refugees. Which schooling and education possibilities are open for these students?
- to compare which kind and in which form for these students is provided by schools and school systems. What kind of Language learning or school community provision is put in place?
- to build a European and international perspective to foster collaborative research projects on this topic, helping stake-holders by providing comparative insights into how national school systems manage and cope with the above mentioned topics.
Freie Universität Berlin: European Educational Research Association EERA , 2016.