Migrant education policies across Europe: “the most important issue facing European education over the next decade”

The SIRIUS Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background has developed recommendations and a clear Agenda for Migrant Education in Europe that give concrete guidelines on how to improve education systems so as to decrease the achievement gap for all low-achieving students. It was introduced and discussed at a 2-day conference in Brussels, symbolically in the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee. EPA has endorsed the Agenda and participated actively in the conference putting emphasis on the importance of involving migrant parents for the school success of their children and the need for empowerment of both migrant parents and other actors (other parents, teachers, etc.) to make it become a reality.
According to the Institute of Policy Studies in Education (London Metropolitan University), “migrant education is the most important issue facing European education over the next decade”. While the EU has underlined the importance of education and has set ambitious targets for the improvement of educational results, migrant children are often overlooked in national policy making. This is why we need to highlight successful strategies to effectively implement education policies with targeted measures for migrant students on a systematic level.

Children with migrant background are disproportionally represented among dropouts and the lowest performing percentiles because they have a number of critical, and specific, education needs that are not currently met through mainstream education policy. Yet migrant children form a large percentage of the EU population. According to EU data, 8.3 million young people in the EU Member States (3.1 million under 15 and 5.2 million aged 15-24) were born abroad, while the number of second-generation young adults (aged 15-34) are estimated at over four million. The youth unemployment and young people “Not in Education, Employment or Training” (NEET) rates are significantly higher for first and second generation migrants than for their native peers in most EU Member States. The EU Migrant Integration Indicators indicate that the share of early school leaving among foreign-born learners in the EU is nearly twice as high as among the total population. Eurostat’s 2011 statistical report on Migrants in Europe also shows that the shares are higher for second-generation youth with migrant parents. 

The European Union has underlined the importance of education, notably in its 10 year EU growth and competitiveness strategy, EU 2020. The strategy sets ambitious targets for the improvement of educational results: reducing school drop-out rates to below 10% (currently at 12%), and ensuring that at least 40% of 30-34 year olds have completed tertiary education by 2020 (currently at 36.9%). The results of the Education and Training Monitor 2014 show that we still have some way to go to achieving these results, and SIRIUS insists that these targets will be achieved only if we focus on reducing the inequalities of access to schooling and quality of education for socio-economically disadvantaged communities across the continent, in particular for migrants coming from a low socio-economic background.

Updating the agenda on the education of migrant learners may help EU Member States to reach their common targets for a smart and inclusive economic growth and against youth unemployment. For example, the EU’s 2013 report on Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration estimates that closing the gap in early school leaving rates for foreign-born learners would bring the EU 30% closer to its headline target of reducing this rate to 10% and prevent half a million young people from leaving school early, which accounts for 8.7% of all early school leavers in the EU. 
“The agenda for migrant education in Europe comes at a critical time. In this time of austerity and increasing migration in Europe we need to be doing more – not less – for migrant learners” commented Miquel Angel Essomba, General Coordinator of the SIRIUS European Policy Network.

1.      The Agenda, recommendations and full list of endorsements can be read at: http://www.sirius-migrationeducation.org/a-clear-agenda-for-migrant-education-in-europe/
2.      SIRIUS organised a conference in Brussels on 19-20 November 2014 to establish how to make school a success story for children and youth with migrant background: http://www.sirius-migrationeducation.org/sirius-conference-helping-children-and-youth-with-migrant-background-succeed-making-schools-matter-for-all-november-2014/ Young people with a migrant background, as well as practitioners and policy makers, will be available for interviews. You can already read some interviews with migrant run organisations working on different aspects of inclusive education on The Immigrant Contribution section of the SIRIUS Website: http://www.sirius-migrationeducation.org/the-immigrant-contribution-2/

SIRIUS is a European Policy Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background. The project runs over a three-year period (2012-14) and is funded by the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission. Network partners include research centres, universities, civil-society organisations and public entities. SIRIUS integrates existing studies and reports on migrant education, updates data and hopes to transform the policy implementation on migration and education throughout the European Union. For more, visit www.sirius-migrationeducation.org.
The Brussels-based Migration Policy Group (MPG) has been active in the SIRIUS Network as Communications Manager since 2012. MPG is an independent non-profit European organisation dedicated to strategic thinking and acting on equality and mobility. Mobility refers on the one hand to geographic mobility and the international movement of people leading to migration, settlement and integration, and on the other hand to social mobility that is hampered by discrimination and is promoted by equal opportunities.  For more on its work, visit www.migpolgroup.com 

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