The need for concerted efforts at national and international levels to effectively integrate refugee children into education was highlighted at a seminar hosted by Education International. The seminar also focused on the need for action in education policy to reduce the risk of a lost generation of children.
Europe has a key role in promoting the inclusion and future prospects of newcomers. That was the message at an event in Brussels, Belgium, attended by academics, union delegates, and stakeholders. The event, held at the European Economic and Social Council (EESC), was organised by Education International (EI), the global education federation. It aimed to highlight what member states must do to effectively create opportunities and hope for newcomers through education.
The meeting also included the launch of the publication, ‘Education: Hope for Newcomers in Europe’, by Nihad Bunar, Dita Vogel, Elina Stock, Sonia Grigt, and Begoña López Cuesta. Martin Henry, EI research coordinator, summarised the key findings of the study.
Role of Europe and education
Public education has a significant role in the inclusion of refugees in their host societies, according to speaker Mario Soares of the workers’ group at the EESC. He highlighted the risk of producing a lost generation if refugee children were not integrated into national school systems. Europe has a key role in promoting the inclusion of newcomers and migrants can enrich host societies, he said.
National governments must ensure that education curricula are tailored to the needs of all children, teachers are trained accordingly, and resources are allocated appropriately, said Haldis Holst, EI Deputy General Secretary. “The integration of newcomers and refugees is a political, economic, and social challenge,” she added.
Attendees also heard how social partners in education also have a role in making demands of policy makers. Susan Flocken, European Director of EI’s European Council (ETUCE), highlighted the case in the European Union, where ETUCE participates in negotiations with governments and employers. She also stressed the role of education in fostering democratic citizenship and countering right-wing extremism.
Flocken highlighted the ETUCE resolution on migration that focuses on the recognition of migrant skills and qualifications. In addition, she said that, after education, newcomers would integrate into host countries’ labour force – and be supported by trade unions.
The seminar also heard from Denitsa Sacheva, Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Bulgaria, who said that Bulgaria was exploring an integrated approach to the education of refugee children. However, many newcomers are still outside of the education system or have only attended school briefly. She reasserted the need for psychological support of newcomers and their families, but also for the professional development of teachers.
Plenary sessions brought together academic and political perspectives and provided an opportunity to align actions at different levels to foster positive change. Teachers and education unionists also highlighted the need to listen to the actors on the ground in order to effect positive change for students.