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Whole-School Approach for the Inclusive Education of Migrant, Refugee and Asylum Seeking Children and Unaccompanied Minors

Migrant children face multiple challenges in European education systems. These challenges are complex and intersectional. They may include a lack of proficiency in the host country language, limited or interrupted prior formal education, patchy institutional knowledge about how schools and systems work in the host country. As a result, children of migrant background show significant gaps in academic performance. They tend to have lower levels of academic performance, higher early-school leaving rates, over/underrepresentation in certain school types and difficulties in gaining a foothold in labour markets. This legacy of poor educational outcomes has, also, ripple effects into the next generation and is linked to stagnant social mobility.

Ultimately, these effects can feed into a vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty and social exclusion. In other words, cracking the immigrant education puzzle is at the heart of Europe’s integration challenge.

Although this challenge is not new, it has taken on greater urgency in recent years. Improving education for migrant children has long been a priority in many European countries [and at the EU level]. But while policymakers at all levels have signed up, at least on paper, to the principle of “mainstreaming” migrant integration the implementation of this approach remains a work in progress. Few countries have made the structural reforms necessary at district, school and classroom levels to ensure that all learners have a chance to thrive.

The Role of Schools in the Education of Migrant Children Education, particularly inclusive education, is the most powerful tool to integration (Fundamental Rights Agency, 2018).

Inclusive education may help improve social cohesion, improve language skills, prevent child poverty and foster participation in the host society. (UNESCO, 2018). Mainstream schools in Europe have the potential to become the main drivers of migrant integration (Migration Policy Institute, 2018).

To this end, the “Schools 4 Inclusion” project proposes the elaboration of an effective strategy for the evolvement of the school into an inclusive environment, conductive to the successful integration of children of migrant background. This methodology draws upon two (2) broad areas of educational discourse:

  • The principles of inclusive education - as the process of responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and
  • The whole-school approach - as the approach of improving the quality of the education that migrant children enjoy by involving all those dimensions of school life which may have an impact on educational achievement.

The project proposes the development and the implementation of the “Inclusive Education Whole-School Approach” which is comprised of the following two (2) distinct components:

  • the Inclusive Schools Methodology and Guidelines.
  • the Inclusive Education Toolbox which are incorporated into a Mobile App.