Access to education for displaced children from Ukraine: what are EU countries doing?

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Displaced children have the right to access education and receiving countries have an obligation to provide it. How is this organised in practice?

Including displaced children in the host country’s education requires a series of actions, as outlined in the European Commission’s most recent practical manual for the 2022/23 school year.

For example, countries might need to remove various administrative, legal, practical, and financial barriers, or develop infrastructure to increase capacity.

Informing parents about school enrolment is also very important, as shown by a recent discussion on enrolling children from Ukraine. For example, Luxembourg has set up phone hotlines in Ukrainian, English, French, German, and Russian, and a service that discusses suitable schools with children and their families.

A multidimensional skill assessment of newly arrived displaced children can help to correctly place them. Aside from age and prior level of attainment, this should also cover motivation and wider strengths and background. For example, in Sweden, within two months of starting school, all new arrivals are assessed in their mother tongue on their academic knowledge and language skills (page in Swedish). A new report from Eurydice on supporting refugee learners from Ukraine is mapping EU countries’ policies and tools to determine their educational and personal needs. 

This kind of assessment could also help to identify whether the learner might benefit from temporary introductory classes or additional learning support. The Eurydice report and mapping by UNESCO show that so far, some countries have organised direct integration into local education systems, while others have provided temporary transition classes. Furthermore, some countries have the option of distance learning in cooperation with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education or offer public education with instruction in a minority language. Activities that allow displaced children to keep in touch with their home language and culture can help to prepare them for all possible future developments.

Finally, countries can rely on existing programmes for inclusion of foreign students, which have been mapped by Eurydice for school education and higher education and by OECD.

What is clear is that regardless of the estimated time that displaced children stay in host countries, it is important to limit the time they are out of school.