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«Education, Audiovisual & Culture Executive Agency Integrating Immigrant Children into Schools in Europe Measures to foster: – Communication with ...»

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Education, Audiovisual & Culture

Executive Agency

Integrating Immigrant

Children into Schools in Europe

Measures to foster:

– Communication with immigrant families

– Heritage language teaching for

immigrant children

April 2009

European Commission

Integrating Immigrant Children into

Schools in Europe

Measures to foster:

– Communication with immigrant families

– Heritage language teaching for immigrant children April 2009 Eurydice network This document is published by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA P9 Eurydice).

Available in English (Integrating Immigrant Children into Schools in Europe: Measures to foster communication with immigrant families and heritage language teaching for immigrant children), French (L'intégration scolaire des enfants immigrants en Europe: dispositifs en faveur de la communication avec les familles immigrantes et l'enseignement de la langue d'origine des enfants immigrants) and German (Die schulische Integration von Migrantenkindern in Europa. Massnahmen zur Förderung der Kommunikation mit Migrantenfamilien und des muttersprachlichen Unterrichts für Migrantenkinder).

Text completed in April 2009.

© Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, 2009.

The contents of this publication may be reproduced in part, except for commercial purposes, provided the extract is preceded b y a reference to 'Eurydice network', followed by the date of publication of the document.

Requests for permission to reproduce the entire document must be made to EACEA P9 Eurydice.

Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency P9 Eurydice Avenue du Bourget 1 (BOU2) B-1140 Brussels Tel. +32 2 299 50 58 Fax +32 2 292 19 71 E-mail: eacea-eurydice@ec.europa.eu Website: http://www.eurydice.org


As part of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008 and in tandem with the preparation of a green paper on the links between education and migration (1), the European Commission has asked the Eurydice network to update a part of the survey that it produced in 2004 on school integration of immigrant pupils in Europe (2). The choice concerned two aspects of particular importance in this context – improving communication between schools and the families of immigrant pupils and teaching the heritage language of the immigrant children. It is hoped that describing the policies and measures adopted today in European school systems with regard to these two aspects can contribute to the debates on the green paper, especially as regards the key issues of catering for the growing diversity of mother tongues present in schools and building bridges with immigrant families.

The measures analysed are applied within the school system, even though private individuals or members of non-governmental organisations may be involved in implementing them. Entirely private initiatives (taken by embassies, diplomatic missions and others) are not considered, although in certain countries they may represent an important support to school-based mother tongue tuition provision.

This document talks about immigrant children, who are defined here as either children born in another country (within or outside Europe) or children whose parents or grandparents were born in another country. So the term 'immigrant children' used here covers various situations, which can be referred to in other contexts as 'newly-arrived children', 'migrant children' or 'children of immigrant background'.

Such children may be born to families with different legal status in the host country – families with full rights of residence and refugee status, asylum seeking families, or families without any rights of residence. Children from families who have been settled in the host country for more than two generations do not come within the scope of the paper.

Measures specifically targeting migrants within a country, such as the Roma and various kinds of travellers, and those aimed at ethnic or national minority groups are not subject to a comparative analysis in this paper. However, such measures are mentioned when children from immigrant families benefit from them, and there are no alternative measures targeted at immigrant communities.

The information provided relates to the reference year 2007/08. It comes from questionnaires filled in by the national units of the Eurydice network, other than Turkey. It covers pre-primary, primary and secondary levels of general education, provided by the public sector or the subsidised private sector (Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands). Statistical data provided by Eurostat, the PISA and PIRLS 2006 surveys and certain national sources are also used.

(1) Migration & mobility: challenges and opportunities for EU education systems. Brussels, 3.7.2008. COM(2008) 423 final.

(2) Eurydice 2004, Integrating immigrant children into schools in Europe.


–  –  –


Parental involvement in the education of their children is important to children's success at school (3).

However, many immigrant parents are likely to encounter difficulties of a linguistic or cultural nature and measures to ensure that information is passed on efficiently between schools and immigrant families, specifically by using languages other than those used at school, are therefore essential. This document focuses in particular on three methods of promoting communication between schools and immigrant families: publication of written information on the school system in the language of origin of immigrant families; the use of interpreters in various situations in the school life; and the appointment of resource persons, such as mediators, to be specifically responsible for liaising between immigrant pupils, their families, and the school. Figure 1.1 shows the positioning of the various countries depending on whether or not they offer one or more of these measures, without specifying if these measures are aimed particularly at certain 'categories' of immigrant families (asylum-seekers, refugees, immigrants from another member state, immigrants authorised to settle in the host country, etc.). It does not provide information on whether or not such schemes are compulsory, recommended, or reflect current practice, nor does it specify which of the four levels of education considered here are covered by the existing schemes. More specific information on the latter two points is provided in the text below.

–  –  –

Additional notes Spain: Measures are implemented by the Autonomous Communities and are thus specific to each Community.

Cyprus: The Ministry of Education plans to publish information on the education system in eight different languages beginning in 2009/10.

Poland: Since 2008/09, regulations allow schools attended by immigrant children to employ teaching assistants who speak the mother tongue of these pupils and can serve as interpreters.

Figure 1.1 shows that half of the countries of Europe make use of all three methods of promoting communication between schools and immigrant families analysed in this document.

Most of the other countries use two of the three methods. In Belgium (French and German-speaking Communities), Greece, and Cyprus (until 2009/10), such measures are limited to the use of interpreters, while in Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia, the only method in use is the appointment of resource persons for pupils and families. Although Malta uses none of the three methods at present, such policies may be defined in the near future owing to an increase in the number of immigrant pupils. In the countries in which written information on the education system in the home language of immigrant families is published, interpreters and/or resource persons are also usually provided.

1.1. Most countries publish information on the school system in the mother tongue of immigrant families In around two thirds of the countries, written information on the school system is published in several languages of origin of the immigrant families present in the country or region in question. This information generally covers all levels of education, from pre-primary to upper secondary. Measures of this type have, in general, been introduced recently, dating from only 2007 or 2008 in certain countries (Finland and Iceland).

In around half of the countries, the national or top-level education authorities are responsible for these publications. In Luxembourg, apart from the publication of documents by the Ministry of Education in French and German (official languages) as well as in Portuguese (mother tongue of 20 % of pupils), invitations and/or information letters sent to parents are translated on request in other languages by intercultural mediators and translators working for the foreign pupils' school service of the Ministry of Education. In the Czech Republic and Liechtenstein, national organisations responsible for social affairs publish information on the education system in a number of different languages. In the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland), a multilingual website for newcomers and their parents has been set up by the five Education and Library Boards in cooperation with each other.

In some countries, in addition to the initiatives taken by the ministry responsible for education, other centralised agencies also produce publications of this type. In Ireland, such information is also produced by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, the Reception and Integration Agency, the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB), the All Ireland Programme for Immigrant Parents and The Jesuit Refugee Service, as an example. In Portugal, the Bureau of the High Commissioner for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities publishes general interest brochures that are regularly updated and are available on its website in English and Russian. In Finland and Norway, national associations for parents or families produce information on the education system in foreign languages aimed at immigrant families. In Iceland, the Ministry of Social Affairs has published a brochure in several languages containing information on various subjects, including the education system.

Chapter 1: Communication between schools and immigrant families

–  –  –

Source: Eurydice.

Additional notes Denmark: Written information on the school system covers ISCED levels 1 and 2. Knowledge of Danish is a prerequisite for entry to ISCED level 3.

Germany: Written information on the school system is the responsibility of the Ministries of Education in the Länder.

Greece and Poland: Written information on the school system is published in English at the central level.

Spain: Measures are implemented by the Autonomous Communities and are thus specific to each Community. Most have produced information guides for immigrant families in various languages, in line with the relevant national recommendations.

Cyprus: The Ministry of Education plans to publish information on the education system in eight different languages beginning in 2009/10.

Slovenia: Written information on the education system in foreign languages is produced by NGOs for asylum seekers.

Information on the school system published centrally in a variety of foreign languages more often than not addresses general matters, such as how the education system is structured at the different education levels, enrolment, assessment, and orientation procedures, parental participation, and parental rights and obligations. More specific topics may also be addressed in some countries. For instance, the Flemish Community of Belgium has a brochure explaining the equal opportunities policy.

In Ireland and Norway (primary and secondary education), national representative organisations of parents have published information guides focusing on the relationship between parents and schools.

In Ireland, there is also the All Ireland Programme for Immigrant Parents which provides information on primary and post-primary education in addition to other services for parents that exist in the South and North of Ireland.

In Austria, a publication for parents of immigrant pupils with limited literacy has been produced in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Turkish and Polish that explains how to prepare children for schooling Integrating Immigrant Children into Schools in Europe before they reach compulsory school age. The importance of the mother tongue for their success at school and the supportive role of parents are emphasized. Another brochure, published in German and five other languages, addresses parents of school beginners. It offers information on parental participation, and parental rights and obligations. A website offers information in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and Turkish on the possibility of language support in pre-primary education.

In Iceland, in 2008 the Ministry of Education published in eight foreign languages a document describing all the upper secondary education schools.

These publications are generally published in a limited range of languages corresponding to the languages of the most widely represented immigrant groups. In Spain, Ireland (NEWB), United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) and Norway, written information on the education system is available in more than ten languages.

In eleven countries (see Figure 1.2), local, regional or school authorities provide parents with written information on the education system and their services in several languages, which may sometimes be tailored to more local linguistic requirements. This is the case in most regions of France in the regional centres concerned with the schooling of newly-arrived children and traveller children. In Denmark, certain municipalities provide parents with information on schools and extracurricular activities in several immigrant languages. In Latvia, schools that use one of the eight minority ethnic languages as their language of instruction provide parents with information on the education system in these languages.

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