3.9. Refugees, Migrants and Roma
Children from disadvantaged ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately represented among the underperformers at school and are more at risk of early school leaving (ESL). Often, socio-cultural factors such as linguistic barriers, discrimination or (assumed) mismatches in cultural capital can also be at the root of underachievement. Children with migrant and Roma background, in particular, are often culturally marginalised within the education system. Although comparative data are scarce, the available evidence shows that learners with Roma background are more likely to leave school before finishing – or even start – upper secondary education.
Although data for foreign-born learners have to be interpreted with caution, as they are scarce for some EU member states, those born abroad are on average twice as likely to leave the education and training system early when compared to native-born individuals. Socio-economic status underlies a large part of this disadvantage, but issues associated specifically with migration and ethnic minority status are also important. Migrant students who arrive in the middle or toward the end of their compulsory schooling require the most attention.
While the educational needs of young learners in different ethnic minority or immigrant groups may be different and very context-specific, the higher risk of underachievement and ESL that they face calls for continuous and targeted support. A holistic approach with a mix of support measures combined and adapted to the specific needs of the targeted population is recommended. These measures should include:
- Academic support with the aim of supporting learners to stay in school longer and achieve at high levels. Support may includeinitial assessment of educational background and needs; inclusion in mainstream classes; monitoring students’ progression and potential learning difficulties; strong support in the student’s mother tongue and the language of instruction; mechanisms to support transition between reception and mainstream classes and different levels of education, and so on.
- Social and emotional support, e.g.: to overcome problems and challenges related to the learner’s migration or integration experience or other personal problems.
- Parental and community involvement:encouraging parental participation through voluntary home-school tutors who can act as liaisons and promote stronger partnerships between the home and the school context; sharing good practice among schools on improving parent and community involvement; and, provision of detailed information on school system and learning opportunities, recognition and inclusion of community-based funds of knowledge.
- Intercultural education: school climate that expresses a positive appreciation toward the learners’ migrant and ethnic minority cultural background and facilitates communication among learners through bilingual coordinators and intercultural advisors.
For many learners with a migrant background, targeted language support may also be required.
Cultural (diversity) mediators are often appointed to create links between the school and their own migrant or Roma communities to build trust, understanding and a closer relationship between the school and learners' families. This helps to engage learners in their education, and to ensure appropriate support from parents, school and other local services. Other complementary models move from the mediator to community-based approach. Family participation in their children’s schooling is crucial to make learning more relevant and to ensure schools are held accountable to provide high quality, relevant and meaningful education.
Find out more:
Council of Europe, The situation of Roma School Mediators and Assistants in Europe, Strasbourg: CE, Strasbourg, 2006
European Commission, Education and Training Monitor 2015, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
European Commission, Study on educational support for newly arrived migrant children, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2013
European Policy Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background, SIRIUS, online platform.
European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), Education: The situation of Roma in 11 EU Member States, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2014.
OECD, Closing the Gap for Immigrant Students: Policies, Practice and Performance, OECD, Paris, 2010.
OECD, Immigrant Students at School, Easing the Journey towards Integration, Paris: OECD, Paris, 2015.
SIRIUS, Reducing the risk that youth with a migrant background in Europe will leave school early, Policy Brief, 2015.
Baysu, G., K. Phalet, and R. Brown, ‘Dual Identity as a Two-Edged Sword: Identity Threat and Minority School Performance’, Social Psychology Quarterly, Vol. 74, No. 2, 2011, pp. 121–143. doi: 10.1177/0190272511407619
Clycq, N., Nouwen, W. and Vandenbroucke, A., ‘Meritocracy, deficit thinking and the invisibility of the system: Discourses on educational success and failure’, British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 40, No. 5, 2013, pp. 796–819. doi: 10.1002/berj.3109
Crul, M., Schneider, J. and Lelie, F. (Eds.) The European Second Generation Compared. Does the Integration Context Matter? (IMISCOE Research). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2012.
Larson, K. A. and Rumberger, R. W., ‘ALAS: Achievement for Latinos through academic success’, In H. Thorton (Ed.), Staying in school: A technical report of three dropout prevention projects for middle school students with learning and emotional disabilities, University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, Minneapolis, MN, 1995, pp. 1 - 71.
Nouwen, W. and Clycq, N. (2016). ‘The Role of Teacher–Pupil Relations in Stereotype Threat Effects in Flemish Secondary Education, Urban Education. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0042085916646627.