REFUGEE CHILDREN: integration of the most vulnerable

Transform the luck of the few into the right of all.

Katarina Tomasevski,

special rapporteur on the right to education of the UN commission on human rights (1998 – 20040, founder of the Right to Education Project

Published In:
Brown, Elinor and Anna Krasteva (eds) Migrant and refugees equitable education for displaced populations. Information Age Publishing, 2013.


I like my school. I really like my school”, shares an eight-year-old girl from Congo in Ireland (Report on Ireland, p. 27).

This spontaneous and joyous statement is wonderful expression of a successful educational integration. Children, as well as theoreticians and policy-makers, know what successful integration feels like. What children are not supposed to know is how to achieve it. The paradox is that adults in their institutional roles as theoreticians, politicians, and stakeholders cannot offer a definitive and convincing answer to this fundamental question but hesitate between varieties of perspectives. The term perspective is understood as a looking at the field from a different angle and thus asking different questions, taking other units of analysis as a starting point and collecting new kinds of empirical material (Pennix, Spenser and Van Hear 2008, p. 11).

The answers vary synchronically and diachronically, between the poles of multiculturalism and non-differentialism, as well as from one period to another. A second paradox is that as a general rule theories are better equipped than policies, the latter being not prepared, not willing, or not ready, to apply knowledge into practice. This is not the case of integration: both policies and theories vacillate, experiment, fail, and develop.

Four methodological preliminaries should be clarified: the first concerns the triangle concepts – realities – normativity; the second focuses on the key target group of the INTEGRACE study – refugee and asylum-seeking children (RASC); the third summarizes the theoretical expectations for the comparative analysis; the final one specifies the relations between the institutional incentive structures and the strategic decisions of migrants.

First, the integration as a concept faces two challenges – one which is empirical and one is normative: it covers a large gamut of practices and is heavily burdened with normative pathos:

The fact that the same concepts are used in different national and local contexts – integration policy or multicultural policies – may create the illusion of similar, if not the same, phenomena. Empirical research, however, has shown not only the ideas and assumptions behind such policies are different, but the practice and measures of such policies vary considerably between both places and situations….. (Pennix, Spencer, Van Hear 2008, p.10).

Second, the project clearly identifies one target group – RASC, yet the national reports differ in their legal and political definitions.

Three cases can be distinguished. The first group comprises countries like Estonia and Netherlands which prefer not to introduce differentiations: “Refugee children are not treated as a separate administrative category: they are simply classified as (first-generation) migrants” (Report on the Netherlands, p. 14). The Czech Republic also applies a common approach to educational integration for both migrant and refugee children (Report on the Czech Republic, p. 21). The second cluster of legal and political invisibility of RASC comprises countries such as Croatia neither migrant children and RASC, nor their educational, integration have been a specific focus of research. Serbia belongs to the same group. The lack of policies and strategies is due to the specific migration profile of source rather than destination state (Report on Serbia, p. 18). The third cluster includes most countries that subdivide the target group in numerous categories. Germany distinguishes six subgroups: asylum seekers, recognised refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, persons with “tolerated stay” (Duldung), persons with a right of continued abode after several years of “tolerated stay” (Bleiberecht), persons with other forms of regular stay in Germany, persons with irregular stay (Report on Germany, p. 2).

Third, comparative analyses have the capacity to bring knowledge forward. They facilitate the differentiation between practices that are part of a more general trend versus innovative, experimental ones. The present study will build on the strengths of the comparative approach. The reader should, however, be aware of its sphere of validity, since it is based on the findings of the national INTEGRACE reports.

Fourth, integration is conceived of as the result of the intersection of institutional incentive structures and the strategic decisions of migrants themselves (Freeman 2004, p. 950). The INTEGRACE study adopts primarily the first perspective.

The main hypothesis of the present comparative analysis is that integration models and strategies depend predominantly on four factors: the number of refugees; the history of their settlement; the type of host country– transit or target and the political will of elites.

2. Objectives and methodology

3. Integration – typology of models

We need to be in contact with any people! All people! To be able to go to their homes.

I feel a little bit scared because I don’t know the people here.

 16-year-old boy asylum seeker in Norway

Educational integration is understood as a “dynamic approach of responding positively to pupil diversity and of seeing individual differences not as problems, but as opportunities for enriching learning” (UNESCO 2005a, p. 12).

“I’m not comfortable with generalizations or details; only their encounter satisfies me”, writes Tzvetan Todorov (1993, p. XIII). The interplay between generalizations and “details” like empirical realities will be the focus of this chapter. It aims to analyse the concept of integration in two regards:

Typology – different models of management of the ethno-cultural diversity and examples of countries which come more or less closer to the ideal types;

Diachrony – the concept has evolved over the past decades oscillating from more multiculturalist to more civic “republican” understandings.

The author shares Gary Freeman’s scepticism that “efforts to capture variations in typologies of incorporation schemes is likely to prove both futile and misleading” (Freeman 2004, p. 945) and that the variations among countries are significant: “Efforts at accommodation have run from apparent willingness to see immigrant minorities permanently excluded from full membership in the host society, insistence on more or less complete assimilation into a presume national cultural norm, to more or less enthusiastic capitulation to multiculturalism” (Freeman 2004, p. 945).

The European scholarly and political context could be summarized in four peculiarities:

  1. Immigration has been a fact in Europe for more than a century, but the road from the reality to the identity has proven to be long and hard. “The European states have consistently seen themselves as non-immigration countries, in contrast to countries like Canada, Australia and the US. While the rhetoric about being “nations of immigrants” is strong in the latter countries, it has been absent in Europe despite the fact that some countries have had higher immigration rates than the classical immigration countries” (Pennix, Spencer, van Hear, p. 5).
  2. Controlling immigrant flows and ensuring the inclusion of new settlers were distinct policies for a long period, the first based on national security, the second – on solidarity, tolerance and human rights. Now, they are becoming more and more interconnected: “Integration policy measures are used to select those immigrants that are able and willing to integrate and deter those who are not” (Pennix, Spencer, van Hear p. 6).
  3. The European Union is characterized by a large variety of immigration experiences, on the one hand, and a communitarisation of migration policy on the other: a framework for common migration policies started to be introduced after 1997 and for integration policies in 2003.
  • 4. One of the political illusions of the post-communism was that the ethno-cultural lesson was an easy one to learn. Post-communism was both eager and ready to learn the correct, democratic way of management of minority and migration issues, and to apply it to respective groups in the various countries. This turned out to be a much more difficult task than originally envisaged for two reasons. First, there are several models of integration in Europe. Second, countries evolve over time; they revise or reject former policies and develop new ones. The elaboration of a balanced and fair model for dealing with change is a test for political maturity of both elites and civil society.

The integration policies of EU countries could be classified to belong to three types: interculturalism/multiculturalism, non-differentalism, human rights approach.

3.1. Interculturalsim/multiculturalism

Interculturalism is based on the idea of public expression of ethnic, linguistic and religious differences between children and a school, which assumes the responsibility to encourage them. Ireland offers an elaborate political definition. It stems from the understanding of integration as a bilateral process aiming to integrate migrants within Irish society and Irish society with migrants. Intercultural education “respects, celebrates, and recognises, the normality of diversity in all areas of human life. It promotes equality and human rights; challenges unfair discrimination” (Report on Ireland, p. 20). The intercultural approach promotes interaction, collaboration and exchange with people of different cultures, ethnicity or religion living in the same territory (Report on Portugal, p. 19). Interculturalism is clearly defined and emphasized is several reports and expresses the authors’ ideological choice.

Poland has chosen this model: “The school has a duty to support students in maintaining their national, ethnic identity, practicing their religion, and using their mother tongues “(Report on Poland, p. 14). The intercultural sensitivity and openness of school to the cultural diversity is expressed in regard of the major indicators of identity like language and religion, as well as in other aspects like dress code and gender relations: “Chechen girls are allowed to exercise in long trousers or skirts during physical exercise classes. Pupils are allowed to attend swimming classes separately from boys” (Report on Poland, p.21). The new reforms of education of migrants and refugees in Luxembourg introduced intercultural approaches, diversity training of teachers, intercultural mediators (Report on Luxembourg, p. 11).

Several stakeholders involved in RASC education and migrant integration share the multiculturalist perspective. In a number of countries, however, it is not supported either by the decision makers, or by the general public. The report on Malta examines such a divergence: the director of a primary school acknowledges that “Malta is a multicultural society – a fact still denied by many Maltese people; some even deny the possibility of Malta becoming a multicultural society” (Report on Malta, p.14).

3.2. Non-differentialism

The liberal understanding of integration is based on the vision of individuals as autonomous beings and sees participation in society as an autonomous choice: “The individual chooses whether or not to participate, to what extent and by which means” (Report on Belgium, p.26).

France has always been the classic example of a civic republican approach. It is reluctant to multiculturalism because of the understanding of a direct link between the state and the citizens, not mediated by the communities. This conception is deep-rooted in the French political culture. The INTEGRACE study provides evidence for this approach. France deliberately chooses not to apply specific programs for RASC. Differentiation is not stimulated; on the contrary, it is considered an impediment to integration:

The offer of special programs for educational accompaniment has never been addressed specifically to the refugees…..This is the result of a deliberate choice not to regard refugees as a particularly weak or needy group. This approach is regarded positively by the interviewees, who consider the school environment a context of integration in which excessive differentiation would not be positive (Report on France, p.26).

Policies in various countries, such as France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden avoid ethnic, cultural, religious classifications and construct neutral categories. The focus of integration policies is not on RASC, defined as such, but on “newly arrived” children: “In the last ten years the focus of integration policies has moved to primo-arrivants “(Report on France, p.17). “Students with special needs” (NEE, Necesidades Educativas Especiales) is the social category Spain forged to encompass RASC together with other foreign students: “A student is regarded as an NEE candidate when educational and/or linguistic lacunae are evident. NEE also encompasses students with physical, psychological and/or social problems” (Report on Spain, p. 11). The Netherlands applies a similar approach. The social categories used to refer to RASC are “social disadvantaged” and “children with special needs” in the context of policies for their educational education. The Netherlands is a newcomer in the liberal camp and, according to the famous adage, are ‘more catholic than the pope’, more strict in avoiding multicultural practices. The reasons for this ideological purity will be analyzed below.


3.3.Human rights approach

The right to education has formally been recognized as a human right since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and affirmed in numerous major HR treaties, such as Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966). These treaties establish an entitlement to free compulsory primary education for all children (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 7).

The Human Rights Based Approach is developed by UN and applied by its Agencies to education, health, employments, etc. Two of its principles are particularly relevant to RASC educational integration: universality and inalienability, as well as equality and non-discrimination. All people everywhere in the world are entitled to human rights. The human person cannot voluntarily give them up. Nor can others take them away from him or her. All human beings are entitled to their human rights without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, ethnicity, language, religion, national or social origin, birth or other status (UN 2003). It’s based on the idea of human development as expanding people’s choices with education being one of its three main pillars. The human development paradigm does not regard people as passive beneficiaries of economic and social activities. People must become active agents of social change. This connotes opportunities for participation, empowerment, and access to information (Fukuda-Parr and Kumar 2005). The human right based approach is an alternative to the needs-based or service-delivery approach (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 9).  People are recognized as key actors in their own development, rather than passive recipients of commodities and services (UN 2003).

Germany and Austria label their approach to integration as based on ‘human rights’. This should be understood as a political and ideological label. By no means does it imply that the other countries are disrespectful to refugee rights. Human rights highlight empowerment of right-holder – here: child refugees and asylum-seeking children – and accountability of duty-bearers – here: primarily the government, with its relevant authorities in areas such as asylum and migration, education, social assistance and child and youth welfare services (Report on Germany, p.1). This thorough and elaborate definition demonstrates the high normative pathos of the human rights approach. The integration conceived by the human rights perspective is extremely ambitious and mobilizes several other politico-normative categories, such as equality, non-discrimination, participation, empowerment, and accountability.

Most countries mix elements, practices, experiences, experiments inspired or imported by one or the other of the main models.

The diachronic analysis is as eloquent as the typological one. It shows that policies are not crystallized models; the same countries can shift from one conception of integration to another, sometimes opposite one. The Dutch report is the most thorough in this regard. Three stages are distinguished[2]:

  1. Initially, Dutch policy-makers assumed that migrants’ stay would be temporary and did not encourage any form of integration.
  2. Policies introduced in 1983 encouraged these groups to integrate while retaining their own cultural identity, and set up special programmes to improve educational opportunities and increase labour market participation.
  3. Towards the end of the 1990’s support for these ‘multicultural’ policies declined sharply, ushering in a new approach to integration. This focused on learning Dutch and accepting Dutch cultural norms. A similar shift can be observed in many European countries, but since Dutch policies had previously been overtly ‘migrant-friendly’, the change was felt all the more keenly (Vasta, 2007, quoted in the Report on the Netherlands, p. 3-4).

For decades the Netherlands had been an exemplary case of multiculturalism. Today, the country is again in the vanguard of a new trend – to more restrictive immigration policies, to a more liberal understanding of integration. The new political fashion shifts the focus – if before the emphasis was on the state and its responsibilities, now the migrant /refugee becomes the main actor of integration and is to assume much greater responsibilities. The host, which used to be friendly and welcoming, has become demanding and insistent. The burden – financial, cultural, and social – of integration is increasingly being placed on migrants’/refugees’ shoulders.

The same policy shift, from integration as a shared responsibility and two-way process to the migrant as a key bearer of the responsibility, is observed in Belgium:

In the 1990’s the term ‘integration’ still implied a two-way process, in which both the host society and migrants would adapt themselves to each other. From about 2000, however, the term was used increasingly to refer simply to what migrants had to do; this shift can be observed in many European countries, as the backlash against multiculturalism set in (Report on Belgium, p.12).

The INTEGRACE study confirms a more general trend that North-West European countries have moved from earlier conceptions of integration policies that “focuses on the position of newcomers in society to one that is primarily focussing on the cohesion of societies as a whole and on commonalities that are supposed to be crucial for such social cohesion” (Pennix, Spencer, Van Hear 2008, p. 6). Gary Freeman is more explicit in describing this shift:

Post-1960s scholarship delegitimized assimilation as either a policy goal or analytical concept, but there is growing concern this critique went too far. Alba and Nee have bravely called for the resurrection of the assimilation model, properly modified. Others [like Brubaker] detect evidence of a return to assimilationist policies in Western democracies (Freeman 2004, p. 946).

The comparative study demonstrates there is no one best model of the educational integration of refugee children, but a variety of experiences which resemble often a patchwork, bricolage of practices, projects, innovation, and experience. The time of the big ideological models is over as the new ones rely more on the imagination and activities of social actors. The INTEGRACE study of educational integration of RASC confirms the more general trend that “states possess a patchwork of multidimensional frameworks that hardly merit the appellation ‘type’. Some elements of these frameworks are similar across states, while others are not; some are consistent with stated government goals with respect to immigrant incorporation, whereas others are not” (Freeman 2004, p. 946).

4.Politics, policies, governance



It takes courage to be a refugee! Everyone comes from desperation.

Everyone would like to live where he was born.

15-year-old boy asylum seeker in Norway


Immigration presents challenges for both politics and policies:

Politics refers to the instrumentalisation of immigration by the political actors and the role of (anti)immigration discourse for the political identity and strategy of a number of parties in various countries. This dimension remains beyond the scope of the present study, but is crucial for making sense of public policies. The political discourse defines the priorities and opens or restricts horizons to policies. In Nordic countries (Norway, Denmark) right wing parties have strengthen their positions. In Sweden the party Sweden Democrats entered the Parliament (2010) with a very conservative agenda to dramatically revise the migration policy qualified as “too permissive and generous” (Report on Sweden, p. 1). The securitization of immigration policy in the last decade strongly influences the modalities, forms, and funding of integration. The UK clearly illustrates this trend. The drive of the previous British government for a comprehensive refugee integration policy led in 2004 to the issuing of Aiming High: Guidance on Supporting the Education of Asylum-Seeking and Refugee Children. “The change of government in 2010 led to the archiving of national good practice guidelines and removal from the website of the Department for Education. The good practice guidelines are no longer being promoted” (Report on UK, p.22). In several countries the reports identify two opposite trends: the societies become more multiculturalist in terms of demography, workforce and cultural practices, yet politics are increasingly reluctant and hostile to multiculturalism. The INTEGRATE project is developed against this opposition and identifies good practices of openness and inclusion.

Policies refers to a variety of public policies among which educational one for the inclusion and integration of migrant and refugee children. The State holds the primary responsibility for the realization of the right to education. It has the obligations to fulfil the right to education by “ensuring that education is available for all children and positive measure are taken to enable children to benefit from it” (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 39). Governmental agencies should be hold accountable for the access and quality of education. UNESCO sets the standards for a good policy of educational integration: transparency, accountability, access to justice and stakeholder participation (ibid, p. 122). Norway provides an original example of institutionalization of governmental accountability: the Ombudsman for children. Although the Ombudsman is administratively under the jurisdiction of the Ministry for Children and Family Affairs, neither the Norwegian Parliament nor the Government have the power to instruct the Ombudsman. The duties of the Ombudsman are to promote the interests of children (vis-à-vis public and private authorities (Report on Norway, p. 12, 13).

The analysis emphasizes three groups of political factors with impact on educational integration and measures their degree of relevance. The first group of factors concerns the issue of integration and the way it is articulated in political discourse. The second makes visible the political interest in strategies and programs guiding public policies. The third asks the question how the centralisation-decentralisation of education and integration practices influences their effectiveness.

The concept of integration has different political visibility in the analyzed countries. In some it enjoys clear legal and political definitions and is articulated in activities, assigned responsibilities, timetables in strategies and programs. In others, such as Malta, no integration plan has been developed.

Therefore, two opposite cases can be identified. The Maltese one illustrates the first of a negative interdependence: the lack of political definition implies a lack of consistent integration policy and vice versa. Malta has not designed any national integration plan and ranked twenty third among twenty-eight countries in Europe in terms of integration (Report on Malta, p.16). Poland demonstrates the opposite pole: integration is not defined in any legal document, but the country has a good record in RASC integration.

4.1.Politics and representations

Political will and commitment are crucial prerequisites for the success of educational integration. Politics and public opinion are interdependent. The fluctuations of the latter are expressed in political parties’ discourse and the electoral attitudes. They do not determine but largely influence the orientation of both politics and policies. The last half century has seen a significant shift from positive and supportive attitudes towards refugees to more negative representations and demands for restrictive measures. Two factors are crucial for this change: overall numbers and educational levels. The less numerous and the more educated the refugees, the more positive the public support, while the more numerous and less educated they are, the more restrictive and negative the representations. The Dutch report accounts for these developments:

During the period 1950 – 1985, the image of refugees and asylum seekers was very different from that of labour migrants: refugees were often fleeing from despised regimes and many were middle-class, educated dissidents. The public thus held a much more favourable opinion of refugees than of migrants. In the last ten years almost all political parties have adopted an increasingly hard line on immigration and integration (Report on the Netherlands, p. 10).

This analysis is based on the Dutch case, although it more or less applies to all major European countries with significant immigrant flows. Legislative and policy changes in the UK are moving in the same direction: building ‘barriers’, making the legal entry of asylum-seekers much more difficult, restricting asylum-seekers’ social and legal rights, including the right to work, benefits, housing and higher education; tightening the substantive by which asylum cases are judged, so that proportionally more asylum-seekers are refused refugee status or ELR than in the late 1980s (Report on UK, p. 9).

The political discourse on immigration, security, borders, defines the frames within which policies of educational integration are located. The increasing focus on security succeeds in marginalizing them in several cases, however, in some, integration still defends a central position: in Norway the discourse on the need to control national borders competes with the discourse on protection of the child, while in Denmark the former discourse prevails (Report on Norway, p. 20).

4.2. Strategies

The political weight attributed to RASC educational integration could be measured by the type of political documents the policy rests upon. In this chapter, the strategic plans and programs developed by some states will be examined. They testify to the significant political attention paid to integration and contribute to the policy’s sustainability.

The Irish approach is exemplary. Ireland has voted two strategies covering both the object – the children, and the means – the intercultural education. The National Children Strategy (2000) advocates a “whole children perspective”: All children are cherished and supported by family and the wider society; where they enjoy a fulfilling childhood and realise their potential. The right of all children to play and the right to recreational facilities are also identified as basic needs” (Report on Ireland, p.26). Ireland is a pioneer in developing its Intercultural Education Strategy for 2010-2015. It aims to support and improve the quality, relevance and inclusiveness of education for every learner in Ireland, as well as to ensure that:

All students experience education, which “(…) respects the diversity of values, beliefs, languages and traditions in Irish society and is conducted in a spirit of partnership;[3]

All education providers are assisted with ensuring that inclusion and integration within an intercultural environment become the norm (Report on Ireland, p. 20).

Lithuania has developed an Action plan Education for all for the period 2003 – 2015. Portugal has adopted a similar approach exemplified in the Action Plan of the Ministry of Education, elaborated and implemented to support students whose first language was not Portuguese, encouraging cultural pluralism, and making sure immigrant and refugee students are integrated into mainstream education (Report on Portugal, p.17). The National Action Plan on Integration and Against Discrimination 2010-2014 of Luxembourg has provisions concerning education, such as training the educational personnel in intercultural knowledge and launching an overhaul of educational counselling and orientation tools (Report on Luxembourg, p. 10).

The strategic vision and the policy document articulating the priorities in short, medium, and long term perspective is needed in all countries , but still lacking in most of them. Austria formulates clearly this paradox:

In The National Plan of Action for Integration, adopted by the Government on 19 January 2010, refugees are mentioned only once in the beginning of the NPA, asylum-seekers not at all. A comprehensive integration strategy with short-, medium- and long-term measures specifically designed for refugees and asylum-seekers – for adults and children alike –  has not yet been developed (Report on Austria ).

Policy documents such as strategies, programs, and plans formulate the “philosophy” of integration and often define the instruments and mechanisms to achieve it: The Equality Act (2001) in the UK streamlines race, gender and disability duties into a single requirement (Report on UK, p. 13).  British schools are required to produce a three-year school development plan – a strategic document that sets performance targets (Report on UK, p. 27).

The Strategies are an important policy instrument. They attest to the political maturity of decision-makers and contribute substantially to the sustainability of policies. They are of high relevance to the analysis of the positive political factors impacting RASC integration.

4.3.Policies versus projects



The question arises where good practices are to be located. Two loci compete for ‘hosting’ them –namely, policies and projects, i.e. the governmental and the non-governmental sector. The former mobilizes state resources while the latter relies more on the civil society’s actors and short-term funding at lower levels. The first is more sustainable, whereas the second illustrates the vitality of solidarity, the spirit of innovation, and of shared responsibility.

The comparative analysis should start with the assumption that the significance of the distinction between the governmental and civil sectors does not apply with equal force in the different INTEGRACE countries. This leads to the paradox that civil society’s workforce in the Netherlands is thirty-three times greater than in Sweden – yet both countries are welfare states in which voluntary work and the ‘private sector’ play minor roles (Report on the Netherlands, p. 21). The NGOs working on RASC integration in the country belong to two different groups – one which could be described by resorting to the classic definition of an association as a civil society organisation, while the other is institutionally much closer to the governmental sector:

Many of the service providers, advisory bodies and centres of expertise dealing with RASC are only in a limited sense ‘non-governmental’. At the other end of the spectrum can be found more typical NGO’s such as action groups or lobbies, sometimes set up precisely to oppose government policy and usually independent of government funding (Report on the Netherlands, p. 21).

Both policies and projects contain good practices, but their scope, as well as their transferability, varies from country to country. The optimal solution of complementarities of policies and projects is not found in all case studies. The Belgium report describes some integration policies, but does not include examples of projects. Some countries like Estonia have a very limited number of projects, which could be explained by the limited number of RASC. The Bulgarian case is similar to the Estonian one. Poland shares with Estonia and Bulgaria the same political past and for some time had a similar migration profile. Path dependency did not play a role in this case, however, and today Poland can pride itself on its successful RASC integration in terms of both policies and projects.

Path dependency does have explanatory value in another case: the Netherlands has kept a very good record in RASC integration, even after shifting to more restrictive immigration policies. The ‘path dependency’ model explains the paradox that in spite of the increased hostility to migrants, integration policies remain favourable. This is due to the complex ensemble of institutions and individuals perpetuating the former situation (Report on the Netherlands, p. 11).

The two main strengths of the policies are their sustainability and their capacity for anticipation. The former is illustrated by the finding that the structural features of the educational system could be very beneficial for RASC. Belgium, equalizing policies and practices, is an interesting example: “Belgian policies with respect to the inclusion of refugee and asylum-seeking children and adolescents into the educational system are clearly ‘good practices’“(Report on Belgium, p. 22). Policies’ sustainability is expressed also by the capacity of governmental agencies to change and to back the new orientations by funding and personnel. Luxembourg has undergone substantial positive changes in educational integration and secured them by employing an expert on education of refugee children in the Ministry of education, as well as intercultural mediators (Report on Luxembourg, p. 10).

Estonia offers a good example of the capacity for anticipation, of efforts to prepare the educational system for the challenges of RASC. Even though the country has an extremely small number of RASC – five altogether – the Ministry of education has already published the book ‘New immigration children and Estonian education. Educational policy principles and educational administration’ (Report on Estonia, p. 19). This anticipatory policy allows the schools to react professionally to the first RASC:

Projects compete with policies in anticipating probable future trends or even unexpected developments. Estonia again offers nice examples in this regard, developing projects for testing civil servants’ readiness for work with RASC before a possible mass influx of refugees. The projects are more flexible and open to imagination and creativity. They result in the activity and participation of civil society actors and further endorse them. They suffer, however, from two major weaknesses: dependency on EU funding and lack of sustainability. Instruments for a smooth take-over by national authorities funding are still to be developed by most countries (there are good practices like in Austria which already provide follow-up funding for some initiatives) (Report on Austria, p. 36.).

Policies and projects differ also in terms of transferability. Policies are much more path dependent, and they stem from national political cultures and traditions in governance and integration. Projects are smaller in cope and more focused on goals and target groups, which facilitates their transferability. This transferability is hampered by a major contradiction of EU funding schemes, which favor innovation to the adaptation and adoption of established good practices. Another restriction of the transferability of project-driven activities will be discussed in the chapter on good practices.


Whether RASC should be identified as a distinct target group for educational measures is a major political question. The existing practices gravitate around two major clusters with a lot of intermediary practices in-between.

One set of practices is characterized by the development of specific programs and the formation of special classes. France offers special classes for pupils according to their level of studies: when pupils have received little or no education at all in their country of origin (Elèves Non Scolarisés Antérieurement, NSA), they are placed in specific reception classes, according to age. If the pupils have already attended elementary school in their country of origin, they are offered some more specific study hours, which generally deal with teaching French. In middle and high schools, recently arrived foreign students are dealt with through CLA (Classes d’Accueil), (Report on France, p. 20). Estonia also gravitates around this cluster with its practices of personalized approach and individual curricula for RASC. It illustrates it by the good practice of a specialized school teaching each child individually, based on their age, language skills and personal preferences (Report on Estonia, p. 20).

The other cluster unites countries which integrate RASC in the general educational system without specific measures. Austria is a case in point: “The Austrian educational system hardly provides specific programmes, pedagogical measures. The development of projects, excursions and exchange programmes dealing with refugees still strongly depends on the individual engagement of teachers and school leaders” (Report on Austria, p. 17). The Austrian report is very critical on the lack of specific attention to the most vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied children or children victims of crime (Report on Austrian, p.36).

There is also a trend of passing from one practice to the other.  The Netherlands is a typical example of a country in transition from schooling in special classed towards general ones. Schools do not differentiate between nationals and non-nationals. Ireland follows the same path of not segregated approach for educational success. “Over the last decade segregated practice has been replaced in favour of the age-appropriate integrated provision” (Report on Ireland, p. 17).

4.5. Local governance

The aim of this section is to identify whether decentralisation positively impacts RASC educational integration.

Several countries have opted for decentralization of educational integration responsibilities. In Belgium there is a clear division of tasks: the federal level has assumed controls on immigration, while the community level is in charge of inclusion. The three Communities (Dutch-speaking, French-speaking and German-speaking) are in charge of all matters concerning the integration of ‘newcomers’ (including their education) (Report on Belgium, p. 14). Similarly, the main characteristic of Hungary’s public education administration is decentralization (Report on Hungary, p. 21). Germany counts sixteen separate systems of education (Report on Germany, p. 15); there are eleven in Spain (Report on Spain, p. 11). The Austrian educational system is also characterized by a very distinct and complex decentralised system. In general, it can be stated that federal and provincial authorities have mixed competences in the areas of legislation and implementation (Report on Austria, p.14).

In terms of responsibilities for the implementation of RASC educational integration, the clear identification of the relevant level of governance is crucial. In terms of outcomes, it is much less relevant. We see that the countries which have opted for a more decentralised educational administration belong to different models of diversity management: Austria and Germany have adhered to the human rights approach, while Belgium exemplifies the shift from more open to more restrictive policies. The real question is not so much which is the most appropriate level of governance, but rather how to improve integration measures. This paradox is emphasized in the Swedish report.

The decentralization of the educational system impacts in two opposite ways. From one side, it allows schools and municipalities to develop locally tailored solutions adapted to the composition of the migrant groups. From another side, there is a risk that municipalities or schools with less experience may not have the capacity to respond to linguistic and cultural diversity (Report on Sweden, p. 22).

Decentralisation of education

The debate conducted in educational institutions and the media seems to focus on how can improved support mechanisms foster children’s success in the existing education system, rather than explore possibilities for changing the structure of the system itself (Report on Germany, p. 15). Evidence can be found in several reports that one should not privilege any level of governance, but rather develop integration at each of them, as well as improve the relations among them. Finland is a positive example of good practices at local level which together with efficient policies provide newcomers with stable conditions for integration (Report on Finland, p. 24).

5.Education as empowerment

Develop children’s personalities, talents, and mental and physical abilities

to their fullest potential.

Convention on the right of the child

If there is a unanimous consensus among all scholars and decision makers, it concerns education as the royal road to integration. The study develops the idea of education as empowerment. Empowerment means improving people’s capabilities to demand and use their human rights. The goal is to give people the power and capabilities to change their lives and influence their destinies (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007). The empowerment aims at helping people to overcome their passive powerless position by giving them tools (knowledge, skills) to become active agents in the fight for a better life. Empowerment s a powerful concept, because it emphasizes both on right-holders and their participation, as well as on duty-bearers with their obligations and responsibilities. The concept of empowerment develops the idea that “people cannot not be developed; they must develop themselves” (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 14). The Right to education project stresses children should be recognized as key actors in their own development, rather than passive beneficiaries of services (ibid).

Education can contribute to: overcoming the marginalisation of vulnerable groups; combating poverty and deprivation; integrating migrants; developing the full potential of pupils intellectually, socially and morally; empowering youngsters. The idea of the long term positive impact of education is nicely formulated in the title of one Lithuanian project “Active integration today – success tomorrow” (Report on Lithuania, p. 10).

INTEGRACE project conceives education as “one of the most effective tools towards breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and deprivation” (Report on Ireland, p. 1) and that empowerment leads to self-sufficiency. A strong political expression of the idea of empowerment is the understanding of children as full citizens. The Irish report emphasizes this high awareness from which stems the national policy on children’s integration: “children are respected as young citizens with a valued contribution to make and a voice of their own” (Pasiut Report on Ireland, p. 26).

Education is valued and ranked high among the key public issues. For such a perspective to be successful, it should be relatively independent of the governmental majorities and political fluctuations. It requires a national consensus and legal procedures to back and guarantee its high status. Austria is a case in point: “Enacting educational laws is similar to constitutional amendments, as it generally requires a qualified two-thirds majority in parliament and therefore an agreement/compromise among the main political parties” (Report on Austria, p. 35). ‘Educate and empower’ is a powerful idea which has inspired several projects and programs in Austria, among which Dynamo and its large network of participating partners. The lesson to be learned from their experience is the comprehensive approach. Empowerment can be achieved only through a broad range of qualification skills and educational achievements of RASC aiming in the short term at integration into the educational system, and in the long term – at integration into the labour market (Report on Austria, 21-24). The same comprehensive approach is applied also by the Minerva program, facilitating RASC integration into the Austrian education system, as well as offering basic education, based on the concept of life-long learning (Report on Austria, 29 – 30).

A strong empowerment effect can be achieved by the active participation of refugees in various campaigns and civic initiatives. This is the conclusion of the assessment of the Spanish “chatting” campaign: participation is “an important opportunity to give meaning to one’s experience, and to gain a definition of one’s situation in the community to which one has recently been introduced” (Report on Spain, p. 15).

5.1. Child-centred pedagogy

In all aspects of the education system, consideration of the child’s best interests

must be a primary consideration.

Education must seek to promote children’s optimum development.

Convention on the rights of the child and education

“The child-friendly learning concept promotes child-seeking, child-centred, gender-sensitive, inclusive, community-involved, protective and healthy approaches to schooling and out-of-school education” (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 66). The child-centred approach conceives the child as the centre of the educational universe and requires that programs and methods adapt to his/her needs rather than the other way round. It presupposes more flexible forms of teaching and organization. In the classical approach different curricula have been developed for children with specific (dis)abilities and problems, in the new one the regular curricula should be taught in an adapted way to children with different needs (UNESCO 1994). A flexible structure and timetable allow a less rigid and more inclusive approach. This pedagogy is particularly relevant to the RASC.


5.2. The case of the unaccompanied children

Unaccompanied minors are a case in itself. They have specificities in regards of the procedures for recognising refugees and in the system of reception and integration. They are considered an extremely vulnerable group. Some of them are not identified at the ports of entry and may be for a long time before they come to the attention of authorities.  The Irish study reports the alarming fact that “traffickers were most likely aware of the locations of the UAM hostels and whether they were staffed appropriately by qualified childcare workers” (Report on Ireland, p. 6). Unaccompanied children are sometimes victims of trafficking and thus highly risk group: “The majority of UAM are adolescents, who are at risk of engaging in unsafe sexual behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse. They are particularly at high risk of sexual exploitation and of being trafficked or re-trafficked” (Report on Ireland, p. 2).

The unaccompanied minors are relatively recent phenomenon – it emerged in mid-end 90-ies. Europe is the favourite destination and hosts 81% of the flows. In 2009, 15,100 of the 18,700 claims lodged globally (Report on UK, p. 7). The flows of UAM are uneven and vary significantly from one country to another. At one pole we see Estonia where they are not identified. At the other pole are United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Sweden. The data are particularly scarce and unreliable; the different reports provide different figures. Analysing the contradictions in data is not the object of this comparative report aiming to identify the main types of countries and trends of UAM. France has a very high record of about 6000 in total and 500 entries per year; the stock is considerable and the trend is growing (Report on France, p. 3, p. 5). In Germany the total number is high (3000), yet the trend is decreasing significantly over the last decade (from 1075 in 2001 to 180 in 2007), only in 2008 the figures raised to 324 (Report on Germany, p. 5). In Sweden the number of unaccompanied minors constantly increases (from 398 in 2005 to 2, 250 in 2009) (Report on Sweden, p.7).

Between the two poles we could distinguish different cases: uneven flows in Norway, very low numbers in Malta and the Czech Republic, increasing trend in Hungary and Luxembourg, decreasing trend in Ireland, the Netherlands. The legislation also varies. Policies and law in Estonia do not distinguish unaccompanied minors from other RASC. In most countries UM enjoy good protection; they cannot be subject to expulsion and benefits from the same treatment as native minors.

The best practices concerning education integration of UM could be summarized in four groups:

  • Specialised schools with qualified personnel for dealing with kids in post-traumatic situation. An interesting example is the supplementary public school in Munich for unaccompanied minor refugees, in which “social workers and teachers developed a particular school concept incorporating the special needs of young refugees, who have often been traumatized by violence and armed conflict” (Report on Germany, p. 24).
  • Mentoring programs. An original example is the Big Brother Big Sister “Mentoring Programme” in Dublin where young people are matched with a designated adult volunteer for the purpose of developing a long term supportive friendship (Report on Ireland, p. 25). Another interesting initiative of the Dublin Vocational educational committee is the Homework Club where Leaving, Junior Certificate and Third Level students receive evening individual tuition in a variety of subjects by a designated adult volunteer (Report on Ireland, p. 25). SAMIE (Reception centre for isolated minors) in France facilitates the educational integration of UAM organising classes in literacy, French and Maths (Report on France, p. 24). Human rights of unaccompanied minors are particularly sensitive issues. In Norway an unaccompanied child is always appointed a guardian. The guardian is to ensure that the child receives all the benefits he/she is entitled to and to promote the child’s legal and financial interests (Report on Norway, p. 10).
  • Reception and orientation centres. CAOMIDA in France is an innovative example, because it “allows young people who have never gone to school first to learn the basics of reading and writing, while also adapting to the rules and rhythms of school” (Report on France, p.23). The Centre offers a variety of educational services: internal classes and accompaniment of UAM through their education in the public system, cultural activities, classes in French language. A key factor for the sustainability of this good practice is the national funding which guarantees that the services are stable and reliable.
  • Recreation and personal development programmes. Art and sport are mobilized for UAM: the Dublin Vocational educational committee exemplifies a rich bouquet of Multi Media, Dance, D.J Mixing, Football, Swimming, Outdoor Pursuit’s, Communication Skills, Sexual Health, Rights and Entitlements (Report on Ireland, p. 25).


6. Good practices – typology and transferability

Before there were policies, there were practices:

schools could not wait for policies to be formulated

and debated when pupils were sitting in their classrooms

who could not follow the language of instruction

Glen and de Jong 1996, p. 406

The policies – practices interrelations are problematic, but they will not be discussed below. Having already introduced the policy context, I will address the twofold objective of this chapter:  to “organize” the good practices in meaningful subgroups and to analyze the peculiarities and the conditions of transferability of each of them.

The comparative analysis is inspired by the concept of the four A – availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability, developed by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Katarina Tomasevski (Tomasevski, 2006): availability – that education is free and government-funded and that there is adequate infrastructure and trained teachers able to support education delivery; accessibility – that the system is non- discriminatory and accessible to all, and that positive steps are taken to include the most marginalised; acceptability that the content of education is relevant, non-discriminatory and culturally appropriate, and of quality; that the school itself is safe and teachers are professional; adaptability  that education can evolve with the changing needs of society and contribute to challenging inequalities, such as gender discrimination, and that it can be adapted locally to suit specific contexts (Right to education project).

6.1. Right versus access to education

Education must be provided without discrimination on any grounds.

Convention on the rights of the child and education

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes education as a human right: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory”.(Universal Declaration…1948). The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights develops the idea of the “right to everyone” and states that primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all (The International Covenant 1966). The international standards for educational integration, equally applicable to RASC, are defined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: access to education should be maintained during all phases of the displacement; every child irrespective of status should have full access to education, without discrimination, in particular, unaccompanied girls; access to quality education should also be ensured for children with special needs, in particular for children with disabilities; any child should be registered with appropriate school authorities as soon as possible and get assistance in maximizing learning opportunities; children have the right to maintain their cultural identity and values, including the maintenance and development of their native language; adolescents should be allowed to enrol in vocational/professional training or education; early learning programmes should be made available to young children, children should be provided with school certificates or other documentation indicating their level of education, in particular in preparation of relocation, resettlement or return.

All INTEGRACE countries are inspired by these principles, but prioritize them differently and apply them with varying success. The right to education is translated in different policies with a changing proportion of universalism and multiculturalism. The practices form two clusters: the first offers equal access, the second – a differentiated one.

The first cluster of countries guarantees immigrants the same educational opportunities as the natives. The Irish report formulates clearly the equal access approach based on “the understanding that enrolment in school is without prejudice related to status” (Report on Ireland, p. 17), the Spanish approach is identical: “every child from the ages of 6 to 16 has the right to education, notwithstanding their judicial status” (Report on Spain, p. 10). The Czech Republic extends the age of compulsory education irrespective of the legal status till the age of 18 (Report on  Czech republic, p. 21).Similarly, the UK guarantees open and equal access for all RASC, even for irregular (Report on UK, p. P, 13, 18). The right to educational instruction in Norway is applied to both asylum seekers[4] and rejected asylum seekers (Report on Norway, p. 17). Czech Republic and Finland shares the same approach: the main objective of Finnish education policy is to offer all residents equal opportunities to receive education, regardless of age, domicile, financial situation, sex or mother tongue (Report on Finland, p. 14). The right of the children has as a counterpart the obligation of the school authorities to apply the equal access and to not look for alibis for escaping this duty: “Poor knowledge of the Czech language is not an obstacle and does not waive the duty from the schools” (Report on the Czech republic, p. 21).

The political weight of the principle of equal access is reinforced when endorsed by a specific policy. Flanders developed ‘equal educational chances policy’ aiming at offering all children, without exception, the best chances to learn and develop. Additionally, this policy aims to stand against exclusion, social separation and discrimination (Report on Belgium, p. 17). The Netherlands offers an excellent example of the transformation of the legal regulations into a tangible political goal: “By 2011 the government aims to achieve 100% participation in early childhood education programs for immigrant and disadvantaged children” (The Netherlands, p. 24). A positive practice is strengthening the institutional structure responsible for access to education. Malta created in 2009 an Advisory Group for the Education Entitlement of Immigrants (Report on Malta, p. 10). The Local cooperation board in Belgium seeks to guarantee the right to enrolment (Report on Belgium, p. 17). Britain has introduced a variety of good practices enriching and diversifying the policy of equal access: the New Arrivals Excellence Program covers areas such as school planning, welcoming, initial assessments, teaching and learning strategies and promoting children’s participation. The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant has similar aims (Report on UK, p. 21-22).

Granting RASC equal access to education is undoubtedly a good practice. Its application, however, could lead in specific circumstances to ambiguous implications. The Bulgarian report provides an interesting example when RASC could be enrolled in the very first grades of schooling despite their age and years of schooling as there is no official proof of school attendance in the country of origin and no system of validation of knowledge (Report on Bulgaria, p. 17). Some countries guarantee equal accesses of RASC, but the institutions do not apply this principle in a systematic and sustainable way. The Croatian report notes the lack of transparency in the integration policy of the Ministry of science, education and sport and of efficient measures for dealing with the diversity of language and culture (Report on Croatia, p.12).

The right to education is interpreted also as an obligation of education by most European countries. This approach is by no means a good practice guaranteeing that RASC parents do not withdraw their children from schooling for one reason or another. Some countries are quite strict in applying this policy: in cases of children who often miss classes without a sufficient reason, the National Education Welfare Board in Ireland is obliged to take legal action against parents (Report on Ireland, p. 18). Poland does not pay allocations to RASC’ parents whose children do not attend regularly school (Report on Poland, p. 18).

The second cluster of countries comprises practices of differentiated access. The main argument and criteria for differentiating access to education is legal status. The authorities of most countries are reluctant to offer educational services for irregular migrant children. Germany distinguishes two groups: minors with insecure residence status i.e. tolerated persons and asylum seekers and children without any status. Both groups face obstacles in their access to education (Report on Germany, pp. 13-14). Sweden distinguished three groups: for children with a residence permit school attendance is compulsory and free of charge; asylum seekers have the right to attend school, but it is not compulsory; children who have been refused entry or expelled are not entitled to education (Report on Sweden, p. 13), still the municipality can offer them instruction (ibid, p. 15). This ambiguous policy which contradicts the UN Convention of human rights has been criticized and recommendations have been formulated for granting all children the right to education (Report on Sweden, p. 15).

Other countries differentiate access in financial terms. The Czech Republic excludes asylum seeking children from the free language courses (Report on the Czech republic, p. 21). Poland has opened up its public educational system for children with refugees and tolerated stay status. Immigrant children with a different legal status are entitled to education in public schools on a commercial basis (Report on Poland, p.11). Hungary applies a similar approach and has introduced fees for irregular migrants and those who stay for less than a year (Report on Hungary, p. 25).

Another criterion for differentiating the access is time. Hungary has introduced the requirement of one year of residence as a precondition for full entitlement to enter the public educational system (Report on Hungary, p.21).

Sometimes restricted access is presented in terms of lack of availability of places. RASC can attend schools in Hungary only if there are places available in the few schools which accept them (Report on Hungary, p. 31). If policy is formulated this way, not surprisingly practices are even more restrictive and the report describes cases of schools refusing to accept Roma children from Kosovo (Report on Hungary, p. 28). The crisis was resolved thanks to the EU-funded “Schooling programme” initiative of the Hungarian Interchurch Aid (Report on Hungary, p. 29).

A specific aspect of the access to education is the recognition of education in the country of origin. A specific paradox could be noted: the legislation provides condition for the recognition of certificates, but the administrative procedures are extremely long, complicated and often require the cooperation of the country of origin difficult to obtain from a family who has escaped it.


There is an urgent need for the transfer of good practices to overcome some negative phenomena of closeness and refusal to accept RASC in some countries. As a general principle, the good practice of linking rights and obligations to education has a high degree of transferability. As for concrete instruments – parents are given allowances for the regular school attendance of their children.


6.2. Quality of education

Quality of education is conceived not as a technical term, but in its high sense as schooling that is respectful of human rights: “both in words and in action, in schoolbooks and the schoolyard” (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. XII). Two interpretations of quality compete. One mobilizes a more ‘classic’ argument and evaluates the quality of education in regard to achieving its objective. The other is oriented more to the promotion of creativity, to fostering equality and to the recognition of cultural values.

Two roads for assuring the quality of education are discussed. The first focuses on an equal and early access to the national educational system. It is of universalist inspiration and insist on the immersion of RASC in the pool of natives. The second shares the affirmative action approach and requires specific measures so that RASC are assisted to reach the native pupils’ level. The former is discussed in the previous chapter, a typical illustration of the latter are the individual educational plans. The Czech schools develop them in cooperation with a psychologist and the parents. The plan is reviewed and, if necessary, changed throughout the school year (Report on the Czech Republic, p. 24). Luxembourg has introduced a ‘school passport’, a kind of small portfolio. It is completed on the arrival of the children with help from an intercultural mediator and outlines the school record and languages learnt in the country of origin as well as language learning attainment and progress at school in the host country (Report on Luxembourg, p. 11). A factor for the successful implementation of the individualized approach are the teacher assistants that helps RASC better integrate ­­­to the school environment, to support teachers during classes, to facilitate communication among pupils, parents, community and the school.  Another good practice is when the assistant is employed by the school (Report on the Czech Republic, p. 24).

6.3. Language – the main vehicle of integration

The national language is the vehicle of the community of citizens, affirms and argues Dominique Schnapper (1994). Its high symbolic and political meaning is shared by both unitary states such as France and federal ones with two or more national languages such as Belgium. The importance of language training is further emphasised in a large comparative study by Glenn and de Jong (1996, p. IX), who concluded that inadequate proficiency in the language of the school is a primary reason for poor academic performance.



6.3.1.National language

All reports emphasize the crucial importance of the education in the national language. The good practices cover a large spectrum – from national programs for language immersion to summer camps, from introductory classes to courses in reception centres.  They could be classified into three groups. The first refers to educational policy, the second – to language classes designed for RASC and incorporated in regular school programs, and last one – to a variety of extracurricular activities.

The first concerns the political level and is expressed in guidelines, programs, and strategies. The impact is twofold. First, is emphasizes the high political priority of the national language teaching. Second, it guarantees stable and sustainable funding. Estonia has developed a National program of language immersion. It is aimed at the acquisition of Estonian as a second language and is mainly designed for Russian speaking children, but is also applicable to RASC (Report on Estonia, p. 17). National languages classes are included in the Czech State integration program which ensures stable financing (Report on the Czech Republic, p. 22).

The second group forms the larger cluster with a variety of introductory language classes (the Netherlands, p. 16, p. 25, p. 24), special language classes (‘classes passerelles’) in the French speaking part of Belgium to support minor newcomers to learn French and to become familiar with the Belgian school system (Report on Belgium, p. 17), intensive language classes (Report on Lithuania, p. 11), preparatory studies facilitating entry into secondary education (Report on Finland, p. 13). Hungary provides extra funding for language integration programs (Report on Hungary, p. 22). Poland offers language classes in Reception centres (Report on Poland, p. 7, p. 14), and Bulgaria has similar practices (Report on Bulgaria, p. 15). In Portugal, upon arrival in the school, the student takes a diagnostic language test and according to the result he/she is placed in a specific proficiency level (Report on Portugal, p. 18). Trilingualism – the requirement of speaking the three official languages – is a major difficulty for all children in Luxembourg and particularly for migrant ones. The public educational system offers special classes for French and German and pre-school classes for Letzeburgesch. They are adapted to the very early age of children and enable newcomers to acquire Letzeburgesch by imitation and practice rather than by learning rules (Report on Luxembourg, p. 9, p. 11). Classes can be distinguished in regard of the number of children enrolled. The Check Republic organizes both group and individual classes (Report on the Czech Republic, p. 22). Finland has introduced an original and interesting practice decreasing the symbolic distance between national language and mother tongue: “Immigrant students can take the test entitled “Finnish or Swedish as a second language” instead of the test in mother tongue intended for Finnish or Swedish-speaking students “(Report on Finland, p. 14). Sweden also offers Swedish as a second language (Report on Sweden, p. 19). Transition and preparatory classes facilitate preparation of RASC for inclusion in schools. They are important tool for inclusion, yet suffer of a one weakness: “Introduction classes are often physically segregated from the regular education. The pupils feel segregated and have few Swedish friends” (Report on Sweden, p. 28).[5]  The same concerns are shared by the Norwegian report which seeks for a solution and finds it in bilingual tuition[6] (Report on Norway, p. 21).  It is important that pupils are moved to an ordinary class as soon as possible. Some countries apply different approaches on the base of similarity/difference of the RASC mother tongue in regard to the national language (Report on Croatia, p. 15). A key factor for the success of the language classes is the individual approach that takes into consideration the needs of children (Report on the Czech Republic, p. 22).

The third group of good practices are extracurricular activities, such as summer language camps, where children enjoy communication with other RASC and native children, as well as learn the language in a stimulating environment. Malta has positive experiences with summer schools (Report on Malta, p. 12), and the Red Cross in Bulgaria has been organizing summer camps for several years already (Report on Bulgaria, p. 15-16), while innovative summer courses in Ireland teach the language through drama and sport (Report on Ireland, p. 28).

The importance countries attribute to the national language is expresses also in some restrictive measures – countries like Croatia require that an asylum-holder or foreign citizen under subsidiary protection who fails to attend the compulsory course shall have to reimburse the costs of the course (Report on Croatia, p. 14). It is debatable if such measures could be considered good practices.

6.3.2.Mother tongue

The right to enjoy their own culture, language and religion

Convention on the rights of the child and education

The Convention on the rights of the child stresses the right of the child to enjoy their own culture and to use their language. UNESCO supports mother tongue instruction as a means of improving educational quality by building on the knowledge and experience of the learners and teachers (UNESCO 2003). In opposition to the consensus on national languages, the views are divided on the question of mother tongue. Most reports agree on the importance of mother tongue for the children cultural identity, but differ in regards of which institution should assume the responsibility for the tuition. Two opposite visions can be identified.

The first considers that the immigrant communities and their organisations rather than the state should offer the teaching of mother tongue. Germany is a case in point: In several of the Länder the consulates of the countries of origin are responsible for voluntary mother tongue teaching, not least for financial reasons (Report on Germany, p. 19). Several countries such as Poland and Bulgaria prefer to “outsource” the tuition of foreign languages. The Polish Report formulates this pragmatic approach: schools have no obligation to organise lessons in immigrant languages, but are obliged to provide room for any organization or embassy willing provide those kinds of classes (Report on Poland, p. 14). A number of countries do not have any legislation concerning mother tongue education, Latvia being such an example (Report on Lithuania, p. 12). As a general rule, mother tongue tuition is provided outside the normal school hours (ibid).

The second cluster of countries considers that the state should assume the education in both the national and the mother tongue languages. Sweden with the New Education Act (2010) assures the opportunity for children to develop both their mother tongue and the national language (Report on Sweden, p. 16). Austria, which in other regards, such as the human rights approach, is similar to Germany, assumes a different perspective on the mother tongue education which is provided for all pupils with a different first language than German, including migrant children as well as RASC without distinction (Report on Austria, p.17). In Finland immigrant pupils in basic education may study their native language as their first language within the school’s normal curriculum. There is no country able to provide this opportunity everywhere; it is available only in a few schools (Report on Finland, p. 14). Luxembourg encourages the mother tongue tuition at the pre-primary level and ensures a mother tongue teaching assistant (Report on Luxembourg, p. 9). Norway offers both mother tongue instruction and bilingual teacher: “If the school’s ordinary teaching staff cannot provide mother tongue and bilingual subject teaching, the municipality must arrange alternative instruction and training adapted to the pupil’s situation” (Report on Norway, p. 18).

Mother tongue education is undoubtedly one of the most divisive issues – countries similar in their integration policies and practices, such as the Baltic states, diverge considerably in this regard: “Estonia and Lithuania have issued regulations that make express reference to the importance of providing mother tongue tuition for immigrant pupils, while in Latvia legislation makes no provision for measures of this type” (Report on Lithuania, p. 12). Estonia and Lithuania form part of the smaller cluster of countries such as Austria, Sweden and Norway, where mother tongue tuition is included in the normal school timetable or its inclusion is recommended (Report on Lithuania, p. 12). Lithuania and Estonia have developed bilingual teaching arrangements for the national minorities established in their countries that may also benefit immigrant pupils. This positive and optimistic vision remains still to be tested with higher numbers of RASC.

The lack of consensus among INTEGRACE countries on if and how to teach the mother tongue is supported by similar conclusions of the UNICEF study:

There is no simple solution, nor any one correct approach. Whatever approach is adopted, however, governments have obligations to ensure that children do not experience discrimination, that respect is afforded to their culture, and that every effort is made to prevent social exclusion and educational disadvantage as a consequence of speaking a minority language (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 36).


Transferability in the two different cases of national and mother tongue tuition is poles apart. The importance of education in national languages is paramount: all practices are embedded in the same understanding of the importance of inclusion in the national community. Therefore, the good practices are easily transferable.

The policies of mother tongue training demonstrate two different visions. The first argues that the respective communities should assume responsibility for the preservation and development of their language and culture, and these activities should be located outside the public educational system. The second perspective’s emphasis is on the recognition of cultural differences and on schools as arenas for their expression. The transferability of practices is higher within each of the policies than between them.

Transferability depends also on the number of transferable practices. It is no coincidence that the variety of good practices promoting national languages is greater than is the case with those promoting mother tongues.

6.4. Social and intercultural competences and acculturation

We have to learn everything when we come here.

For example, learn how to use a knife and fork!

Also the way of reading and writing, we have to learn it in a new way.

We read from right to left in my homeland.

13-year-old girl asylum seeker in Norway

Language is a crucial, yet not a unique way to integration. Children are entitled to stimulating learning environment in multiple spaces. Acculturation involves learning the visible and invisible cultural rules. Language learning should be complemented by social competences training. Germany’s experience is stimulating in this regard:

The school also stresses that not only language, but also mutual respect is one of the most important lessons children have to learn. Moreover, school rules (e.g. being on time, doing one’s homework, no cell phones etc) and democratic principles play an important role. (Report on Germany, p. 25).

Temporality is among the most invisible, yet one of the most crucial characteristics of culture. Most RASC, coming from diverse backgrounds, have a different perception of time, and have to learn western time management. The Maltese report is sensitive to this subtle dimension of acculturation and describes the experience of a teacher with intercultural expertise: “Most of the children did not have the concept of timetables and the need to be ready on time. I helped them with this” (Report on Malta, p. 13).

Respect the right of children to rest, leisure, play, recreation,

and participation in arts and culture

Convention on the rights of the child and of education


Integration means learning, yet also creating. Learning the cultural and democratic rules of the host society, but also (re)constructing the child’s Self in the new environment, as well as transforming the society in the interaction with the new comers is paramount. In Homo ludens Johan Huizinga developed the inspiring idea that playing means creativity, imagination, construction, and self-perfection. The right to play is a crucial right which should be guaranteed to all children with special attention to the most vulnerable – the unaccompanied minors. Playing is present in the good practices in two ways:

  • by the claim of the right to play for all children with a special focus on unaccompanied ones and victims of trafficking;
  • as a rich gamut of extracurricular activities aimed at integrating RASC in stimulating, interactive and creative environments. Two types of good practices can be posited: one type which aims to develop creativity, and second one aimed at enhancing communicative skills.

Creativity and art are among the most powerful instruments for integration and empowerment. A plethora of good practices illustrate the potential of art for building bridges, creating understanding and promoting dialogue. Unaccompanied minors with video camera in hand is an inspiring Norwegian example with wonderful results: the children work with their own histories, providing them with a “space” to process and reflect upon experiences; they have been proud that they have made their own film which considerably increased their self-esteem; the films were presented at an opening night and national media reported the event (Report on Norway, p. 30). Visibilization of the invisible is the most significant outcome – the invisible children have been given a voice

As for good practices whose goal is to develop creativity, Malta’s Ministry of Education organized two creative programs (i.e., acting, dance, an improvised theatre and art) for RASC and unaccompanied minors (Report on Malta, p. 12). Polish NGOs organize cross-cultural workshops, which include areas as diverse as film, art, music, drama, dance and photography, as well as cooking classes. An appropriately named NGO – the Foundation of Fun – organized an Intercultural Kids Club where children from different countries play together (Report on Poland, p. 20-21). Refugee and Romanian children play together in the Diversity club and enjoy dances, theatre, painting, sports (Report on Romania, p. 36). The Netherlands is even more ambitious, aiming directly at happiness. The unambiguously named organisation National Foundation for the Promotion of Happiness provides creative workshops and projects for asylum-seeking children. “For children and teenagers it is of great importance to be able to demonstrate during their development who they are and who they can be. This can be done through music, sculpture, theatre, play and games” (Report on the Netherlands, p. 29). Spanish good practices are particularly susceptible to art, and mobilize a rich variety of artistic expressions: theatre, films, photo exhibitions, even string-puppet shows, which expectedly, happened to be an excellent means of communication for small pupils (Report on Spain, p. 18). In UK schools events such as International Week, Refugee Week, Black History Month, and End of Year Assemblies provide opportunities for creating displays, staging performances, storytelling, cultural and sports activities, sharing of food events (Report on UK, p.19 – 20). The Shpresa (Hope in Albanian) program is a nice practice of local schools to promote an understanding of Albanian culture and traditions through traditional dancing, songs, poetry and storytelling. It aims at building confidence and appreciation in Albanian speaking children in the culture they come from, which would help them successfully integrate into their host community, as well as/while at the same time introducing this culture to local communities to increase understanding and co-operation (Report on UK, p.25).

All topics could be addressed in a playful way. Irish school experiments teaching transport through music. A teacher is enthusiastic about the results: “there was more fun, they were learning more… it’s fantastic for children, they learn so much faster” (Report on Ireland, p. 28).

The second group of good practices address communications in intercultural environment. Ireland experiments a new practice of placing separated children with families from a similar culture, religion and language (Report on Ireland, p. 27). A number of Irish schools have organized events to celebrate their international communities. Those events give pupils an even greater understanding of diversity (Report on Ireland, p. 29). A Polish school has organized an Intercultural Club where foreign pupils can learn their mother tongues and present their cultures through various activities to Polish students (Report on Poland, p. 23). “Refugees into Schools” is a British initiative. The aim is, through interactive presentations of their experience, to help children understand conflict, and what refugees often go through. The communicative outcome is twofold: British students better understand refugees, and refugee children start sharing their experience: “hearing an adult speak about their problems often helps refugee with similar experience to speak out” (Report on UK, p. 25). Lithuania offers excursions and trips to museums and historical places to children in reception centres (Report on Lithuania, p. 13). A Slovakian foundation organizes a Festival week of new minorities for promoting intercultural exchange and understanding (Report on Slovakia, p. 21). To facilitate communications Luxembourg introduced intercultural mediators who provide ad hoc assistance with the reception of new pupils, interpreting services for information meetings on the school system, meetings between teachers and parents, or visits to school doctors or psychologists (Report on Luxembourg, p. 9).  The Norwegian Children’s and Young People’ Migration Site, organized by The Directorate of Integration and Diversity, is a virtual space for information and communications of migrant children among themselves and with local pupils, as well as of teachers with pupils on intercultural issues (Report on Norway, p. 23).

Culture has high and everyday expressions; some practices address art, while others – the material culture. The Intercultural Education Foundation in Poland has published a series of books on the cuisines of a variety of countries around the world. “Food – the basic need for both adults and children is a starting point for stories about the country and the daily lives of its citizens (education, work, ways leisure, family, etc…)” (Report on Poland, p. 18).  Spain launched an original initiative of “chat” between refugees and pupils, very much appreciated by all participants (Report on Spain, p. 13-14).

A Dutch school experiments a nice communicative practice: the headmaster welcomes every child by name with a handshake. In this way, children can feel that they are seen, recognized and respected (Report on the Netherlands, p. 19). Portugal has introduced the intriguing infiltration technique and used it during debates or introductions to sessions, raising awareness about the situation of immigrants in the country. “It consists of the unexpected entrance of a migrant/actor in the auditorium or classroom where the activity is taking place” (Report on Portugal. P. 21).

Sport is a favourite activity with an extremely strong integration potential. Ireland reports for a nice success story: a soccer camp held for boys and girls. Interestingly, this football team is very successful in local league (Report on Ireland, p. 7).


The transferability of good practices related to social competences depends on one key condition: the intercultural expertise of teachers and volunteers. The training of teachers in intercultural communication is a precondition for the application of good practices of teaching time management, democratic principles, and cultural rules to pupils with diverse cultural backgrounds. The creative potential of NGOs activists and volunteers is the crucial factor for the production of the rich variety of initiatives and techniques.

Good practices developing creativity and imagination are relatively easy to transfer, because of two facilitating factors: they do not need significant funding and children everywhere enjoy them. Some practices like placing separated children with families from a similar culture, religion and language (Report on Ireland, p. 27) are interesting and promising, but need further experience and assessment in the respective country before their multiplication in different national contexts. The creativity of generating intercultural forms and forums, stimulated and reinforced by the importance of the social and intercultural competences, opens a large horizon for innovations.

6.5. Information and awareness



Raising awareness and sensitizing the public opinion to refugee issues through antidiscrimination activities are the pillars of creating a positive environment for successful educational integration. Some countries are more aware than others of their importance and implement various good practices. They provide bridges between the larger public with the worlds of education and migration through creative and innovative methods. These activities can be divided into three groups: raising awareness; antidiscrimination; public lobbying and information dissemination. They all aim at providing accessible, rich and interesting information on, and for, refugees and asylum seekers. The information providers also lobby for the interests of these groups, they offer advice and advocacy.

6.5.1. Raising awareness

The crucial importance of awareness campaigns is emphasized by Spain and so highly appreciated that most of its good practices are indeed examples of such campaigns. A number of nice examples are presented: “A week of refugee population” in Andalusia, “Listen to refugees and the displaced” in Catalonia, “Chatting between refugees and secondary school pupils” in Barcelona (Report on Spain). The argument is that in a country with relatively low RASC numbers and a lack of specific measures promoting RASC educational integration, the efforts should be concentrated on awareness-raising and building the capacity of the Spanish population of receiving foreign students (Report on Spain, p. 20). “Croatia – E(de)nd on Earth” campaign aims at promoting the rights of asylum-seekers and  improvement of asylum policy (Report on Croatia, p. 10).

Austria is the most consistent in including awareness raising initiatives in most of its projects. Art projects, forums, discussions, volunteers are focused to foster intercultural understanding by means of self-designed theatre plays, documentary films, discussion forums and exhibitions. Understanding the great importance of awareness-raising activities leads to impressive results: they are part of any project and every project invents its own intercultural forms.

Art allows exteriorizing and transforming the challenges of alterity into cultural imagination. An interesting example is the theatre piece on the topic of “being foreign” performed by the theatre of Salzburg in which took part the participants in one intercultural project. Many school-classes visited the play and learned about intercultural topics, racism and tolerance (Report on Austria, p. 26).

Estonia is an original example of a country with an extremely limited number of RASC and very good understanding of the need to prepare and form the public in the spirit of openness and tolerance.  The project ‘Public Awareness Raising on the Notion of Asylum and Migration: Refugees? Who? Why?’ is a positive example of a mix of diverse activities, among which: information campaign targeted at the general public; “Me and refugee?” competitive games for young people; awareness-raising among youths through information sessions and other interactive tools; building capacities and raising awareness among teachers through workshops and the “Not Just Numbers” toolkit; inviting youngsters to share thoughts on the matter; translating the web based game Against All Odds into Estonian; talking about refugees and asylum seekers in class; workshops for watching and analysing study films regarding refugees and asylum seekers, etc. (Report on Estonia, p. 14-15).

A targeted approach addressing the group of children aged five to ten is described in the Portuguese report. It is based on the Karlinchen book (translated as A Pequena Carlota), by the German writer Annegert Fuchshuber. The book was adapted into a didactic and it has already been adopted in the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, and Portugal. The book is accompanied by a seven-minute-long DVD and further exercise materials (Report on Portugal, p. 20). The playful atmosphere stimulates an awareness of diversity and tolerance. Poland has developed a project addressing a more professional public. Migroteka includes 12 collections of books on migration, interculturalism and refugees located in ten Polish cities (Report on Poland, p. 20).

6.5.2. Antidiscrimination

Malta has adopted a different, more militant approach aimed at mobilising NGOs, church-based organisations and private individuals for a coherent policy and promotion of tolerance and diversity. ‘Building coalitions’ for tolerance towards vulnerable groups, including RASC  is an interesting good practice (Report on Malta, p. 10). The UK has implemented the Equality Act, whereby all public bodies, including schools, are bound by the duty to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and advance equality of opportunity. “The Act stipulates that fostering good relations includes the need to tackle prejudice and promote understanding” (Report on UK, p.13). An innovative project to challenge racism and overcome hostility towards new refugees through art and football has been experimented in British schools in the Dover area (Report on the UK, p. 29). It is also one of the relatively rare successful projects combating discrimination against Roma.

6.5.3.Public lobbying and information dissemination

National campaigns and information dissemination sensitize the public opinion and challenge cultural barriers. Information dissemination is practiced by all countries in a variety of forms: websites in different languages being the most common practice[7], complemented often by other technologies – DVD, online video, etc.  Poland offers an elaborate example of information dissemination through the Intercultural Education website, providing interesting scenarios for lessons, delivered to children with various cultural backgrounds, at the pre-school level and through integrated teaching; proposing a rich selection of educational materials, and presenting examples of interesting projects run by NGOs (Report on Poland, p. 18). The new technologies foster information dissemination, as well as exchange, and interactivity. Another good practice, again originating from Poland, is the website “Refugees go to school!“ – an outcome of the „Awareness campaign for teachers” – gives information on RASC, helps teachers and volunteers create a network, exchange ideas, experiences, practices (Report on Poland, p. 19).Traditional toolkits, providing information on how to address migration issues, are also practiced in several countries. “At Home in Ireland: An Integration Guide for Immigrant Youth and Parents” (Report on Ireland, p. 27) is an illustration of this practice.

Most NGOs lobby publicly for supporting vulnerable children. Some like ECPAT (Nationellt Metodstöd mot prostitution och människohandel) in Sweden focus on the most vulnerable among the vulnerable and deal with issues related to child prostitution, child pornography, and children trafficking.


Raising awareness is among the most unevenly distributed good practices. It is often reduced to information dissemination and is rarely complemented by antidiscrimination activities. The main factor for successful transferability is the application of a systematic and comprehensive approach, as conceived and implemented by Austria.

7. The actors of educational integration

A major goal of the comparative report is to identify the crucial engines for successful integration. When policies fluctuate or stall, the time comes for the active and responsible citizens, professionals, and civil society activists. Although the States has a primary responsibility for education, the civil society with its organisations and activists is vital for the diversification of participation and the success of integration.

The Human rights based approach requires the identification of the human rights claims of rights-holders and the corresponding human rights obligations of duty-bearers as well as the immediate, underlying, and structural causes of the non-realization of rights (UN 2003). The capacity of rights-holders to claim their rights should be assessed, as well as the capacity of the duty-bearers to fulfill their obligations. If necessary, strategies should be developed to build these capacities (UN 2003).

For the schools to successfully implement the four A[8] means that all actors have to embrace them:

The 4 As are to be respected, protected, and fulfilled by the government, as the prime duty-bearer, but there are also duties on other actors in the education process: the child as the privileged subject of the right to education and the bearer of the duty to comply with compulsory-education requirements; the child’s parents who are the ‘first educators’; and professional educators, namely teachers (Right to Education Project[9])


7.1. Intercultural teachers

The INTEGRACE study clearly demonstrates the key role of teachers with intercultural sensitivity, expertise and experience. Teachers “translate national policies into practical action in each school” (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 93) and a quality education depends significantly on their commitment, enthusiasm, creativity, and skills. Creating an inclusive and child-friendly environment necessitates different skills and styles from teaching in a traditional school. Teachers need to develop competences and capacities on learning through participation; positive forms of participation and class management (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 72).

Several models have been experimented. UK has introduced the role of refugee support teachers/new arrivals teachers (Report on UK, p. 24). Belgium has recently introduced follow-up coaches (2009 on), aiming to provide support to minors who have attended newcomer classes during the previous school years. More specifically, schools are appointed extra hours to support “ex-minor newcomers” by providing extra language hours, or extra teaching support for certain courses, to concert with teachers on how to deal with language barriers in regular education classes. (Report on Belgium, p.15). Some British schools with large numbers of children from the same ethnic group employ bilingual staff: “Even when they are not qualified teachers, they help the children understand the new school they have arrived to better and provide an insight into the child’s feelings and problems” (Report on UK, p. 28). In 2009 on Malta introduced the role of the peripatetic teacher – a complementary service offered by the national education system. They give additional lessons on Maltese, English, and math, but also resolve intercultural tensions and misunderstandings. One of their tasks was to discuss with Muslim girls and their parents the nature of mixed schools (Report on Malta, p. 10). Similar is the role of the complementary teacher active in some Maltese schools (Report on Malta, p. 14).

Another interesting good practice is the “buddy-system” whereby a native child will team up with a RASC or immigrant child, who experiences difficulties integrating because of linguistic and other reasons, and help them accordingly (Report on Malta, p. 14). Poland has experimented with the practice of providing bilingual/ bicultural teacher assistants with the knowledge of immigrant languages attending the classes (Report on Poland, p. 19).

All teachers need training – teachers in intercultural classes even more so. This issue is perceived as a need by teachers, who express the necessity of enhanced attention to the specificity of teaching in a multicultural setting (Report on Spain, p. 19). Norway develops several online learning resources for bilingual education (Report on Norway, p. 25). The easy accessibility enlarges the circle of teachers consulting them and improves the quality by facilitating the involvement and participation of various stakeholders in their development. Formative assessment, action-research, second language acquisition, and intercultural education should be the key competent of teachers training. These competences are so universal that all would benefit – immigrant, but also native students (Report on Sweden, p. 23).

7.2. The successful nexus

The Teachers – pupils – parents nexus is crucial in order for integration to be instituted and function in a sustainable and successful manner. The school ethos should be impregnated by a culture in which human rights are respected for all members of the school community. Human rights “need to be incorporated into all school policies in order that children and teachers are aware of what their rights, and consequent responsibilities, are and how to exercise them” (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 76). Children have rights, as well as responsibilities. Mutual respect should be the norm in their relations with teachers: “As teachers have responsibilities to children’s rights, children have responsibility towards teachers…” (UNICEF and UNESCO 2007, p. 22).

Consulting and involving parents is the aim of numerous good practices. The objective is twofold: stimulate parents’ participation, as well as support them in building their capacity and promoting their willingness to ensure their children’s attendance at school.

The school has to meet the parents with respect and through an open dialogue, stresses the Report on Sweden (p. 23). Trust and confidence of parents and children in teachers and schools are paramount for the sustainable integration in the educational system. The country reports describe a variety of ways of building them. Several Polish practices are open to parents’ participation. The Intercultural Kids Club is visited by kids, accompanied by parents/carers (Report on Poland, p. 20). The “Intercultural school in the “Multicultural city” which has offered initial intercultural trainings, was attended not only by children and teachers, but by parents as well (Report on Poland, p. 20). The Belgian report lists several forms of successful collaborative models for communication between schools and parents, such as home visits, informal conversations with teachers, with the school’s coordinator for newcomer’s education, and especially with the school’s intermediaries (Report on Belgium, p. 24). The Finish report also stresses on building an efficient cooperation system with parents of RASC (Report on Finland, p. 20). Norway has established well articulated and developed scheme of relationships and responsibilities among various partners: pedagogical leaders, parents, interpreters, mother tongue assistants, etc. It covers three aspects: ‘what’ (activity/event), ‘responsibilities’ (who is in charge of a certain activity/event) and ‘when’ (time of the activity/event) (Report on Norway, p. 28).

The nexus school-pupils-family is further developed and conceptualized in the holistic model of integration. It “considers the child’s and his/her family’s competences, knowledge and needs and how there are interrelated” (Report on Sweden, p. 29). It pays attention to education, as well as health and leisure time. All measures and activities are realized in close operation with the family.

7.3.Diversification of actors

Civil society organizations play a triple role: they are a pool of expertise on both the needs of migrant children and the ways to satisfy them; they act as service providers and contribute for making the duty bearers accountable.

The more stakeholders are involved, the more balanced the approaches and the more diverse the good practices. Belgium shows an interesting example of an organisation called Local Cooperation Board, representing local school boards, parents’ organisations, staff members of the local supporting centre, local organisation for integration of newcomers, ethnic minorities’ organisations, health care services (Report on Belgium, p. 17).

Refed Network of Professionals in the UK is a network of 1400 practitioners dealing with refugee and asylum seeking children, young people and families, primarily in the area of education, but also in healthcare and social protection. It provides a platform for exchanging information, as well as for sharing and developing ideas (Report on UK, p. 230). Irish teachers are particularly proud of the “Together Towards Inclusion” Toolkits. It is an innovative and original initiative, addressed to all stakeholders involved in the educational integration of foreign pupils. These toolkits aim to help schools create and sustain a welcoming and inclusive environment for pupils and parents from all backgrounds, and ensure equal access for all. (Report on Ireland, p. 24). Bulgaria has experimented a good practice of mediation of the State agency for refugees between the parents and the administration in two public schools (Report on Bulgaria, p. 26).

Integration could not be carried out only by professionals. Volunteers are needed and welcome – Malta presents their involvement (Report on Malta, p. 11).


Some of the good practices have already been presented and transferred to other countries, the “Together towards inclusion” Irish toolkit being a stimulating example. It has been warmly welcome in Romania, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and Slovenia. These positives examples could be successfully used in different international contexts (Report on Ireland, p. 24). The Nordic cooperation aimed at providing digital learning resources in various languages has already given fruitful results, such as the transfers from Sweden to Norway (Report on Norway, p. 26).  The Norwegian scheme of relationships and responsibilities of stakeholders is a very good practice. Its transferability depends on the competence of good planning.

8. Conclusion

The present comparative analysis has verified some of the hypothesis and has falsified others. The classic European models of integration – assimiliationist/non-differentialist and multiculturalist – are vanishing. Their contours can still be identified, and some countries come closer to the ideal types, but what prevails is a common trend towards securitization – with more restrictive, less hospitable policies.

The question arises as to what the most relevant factors are that influence policies in contrast to the initial hypothesis, the number of refugees has only relative relevance. The INTEGRACE sample is extremely heterogeneous – Germany and UK ranks among the ten top hosting countries in the world, France is among the top three in Europe, while RASC in Estonia can be counted on one hand.  The numbers are similarly low in other countries, such as Malta, Lithuania, Hungary, etc. Numbers do count when they are very limited like in Estonia; namely, the law does not distinguish between the different groups of RASC. Only much higher numbers allow the specification of RASC as children with disabilities, children with special needs, ex-child soldiers and militia workers, separated children, victims of crime, children involved with drugs, prostitution, and exploitative labour, or “street” children. At the same time, numbers do not count when targeting policies. Children with subsidiary, or temporary, protection status are more numerous than refugees everywhere, yet integration programs are conceived in reverse proportion – they are more comprehensive and numerous for refugees. Also, numbers of refugees do not count significantly when choosing the model of integration. This conclusion is illustrated by the fact that countries such as the Netherlands have shifted from more multiculturalist to more assimilationist policies for political not for statistical reasons. Furthermore, numbers do not count considerably either when access is defined: countries such as the UK, with a very high proportion of refugees, offer open and equal access to education, including for irregular migrants, while others, with much smaller numbers of RASC, apply a more differentiated approach.

The history of settlement – i.e. the time of arrival and the duration of the stay – can influence the choice of good practices, but not so much the integration model. Countries with relatively recent immigration focus more on awareness campaigns, while others, with settled refugee populations, are more concerned with integration. The same difference is less relevant concerning the type of integration and we see among the multiculturalist camp countries with different migration histories and profiles (transit or destination). The rapid and radical shift of policy, Romania, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and Slovenia as in the Dutch case, also relativize the path dependency factor.

Policies are influenced, but not determined, by the size of migrant flows and the history of migration. These conclusions imply that the decisive factor is political voluntarism.  Elites assume the responsibility for introducing and changing policies. Some good practices disappear with changes of government. A relevant example is the project with the emblematic name “Aiming high”, introduced by the previous British government, and abandoned by the current one.

The State bears the main responsibility for conceiving and implementing efficient policies of educational integration. A plethora of positive measures and practices have been identified, all of which are promising but likely to succeed only if they are backed up by solid commitment and careful monitoring.  Public authorities are not always able, capable, or willing to meet their obligations with regard to RASC educational integration. The reasons could be summarized in three groups: • lack of resources – financial or human (skills and institutional capacity); • lack of responsibility – lack of political will and commitment to accept obligations; • lack of coordination between institutions and stakeholders. ‘Aiming low’ is the political choice on integration of numerous political forces and governmental majorities across Europe.

Who are the bearers of good practices in a situation of more restrictive policies? The most amazing conclusion that can be reached as a result of reviewing the reports, is that actors of integration – teachers, volunteers, NGO activists – play a crucial role. Most good practices are both initiated and implemented by active individuals, inspired by the values of tolerance, antidiscrimination, intercultural dialogue. Their motivation, energy, innovation, and activism are the extraordinary engines which foster dynamism and makes integration happen. A strong, vibrant civil society is the productive counterpoint to restrictive policies. Civil society’s good practices remedy the shortcomings of the state system.

The comparative analysis identifies the following criteria for sustainability and transferability of good practices:

The concept of RASC should be deconstructed and two different types of integration strategies should be identified and developed. Asylum-seeking children live in the separate world of the asylum seeker centres, and only some of them attend school in the local community. The children with refugee status are not distinguished from other children of migrant origin, and are the main target of integration policies. Policies makers should be aware of the differences in temporality of stay and sensitive to the peculiarities of integration of each group.

Strategies and action plans have proven to be the best policy instruments, and the optimal institutional incentive structures to legitimize the importance of integration and to allow for a comprehensive approach. Some of the reports define the latter as holistic. “Practices should be understood in the wider framework of measures and policies aimed at increasing the benefits related to migration and minimising the negative aspects through the promotion of a diverse and multicultural society” (Report on UK, p. 20).

The dilemma between concentration in specialized schools/classes or dispersion of RASC in regular classes does not have a definitive resolution. However, desegregation proves to be a better practice. The high concentration of migrant children, and the lack of interaction with native pupils, present obstacles to learning the language reducing inter-ethnic contact and social cohesion.

Project-driven activities should be replaced by programs with medium- and long-term funding by local and state authorities in order to avoid frequent staff changes and to allow the implementing partners to develop required capacities.

Furthermore, greater transparency in the educational system, as well as the establishment of a feedback culture at schools, would be necessary. A main criterion for transferability of good practices is the mechanisms of reliable evaluation. Thanks to the feedback gathered through such mechanisms, it is possible to re-formulate and modify good practices according to perceived needs of the target population. It’s crucial to collect the feedback not only from the initiators of the good practices, i.e. teachers and NGOs activists, but also from the RASC and their parents.

Training teachers in intercultural communication is crucial for promoting diversity in schools and society, as well as being an asset and opportunity for mutual benefit. The practice of utilizing support teachers, including teachers and volunteers with migrant backgrounds, has proven to be beneficial and could be easily transferred. Creating networks of professionals in intercultural education for the exchange of information, ideas, initiatives, is an efficient, non-costly, and easily transferable good practice.

The inclusive ethos and environment promote a culture of respect for difference and introduce approaches to support all children, irrespective of legal status, language or ethnicity. Interculturality is a crucial dimension of the inclusive curriculum tailored to the needs of children. The learning materials should not send negative representations of any migrant groups. Child-friendly schools and participatory methods take account of the evolving capacities of the child and assure safe, welcoming and encouraging environment.

Educational integration is about what children learn, but also – as importantly – about how they learn. Crucial for its success is the respect for the agency of children, their active involvement and participation. Schools should respect the dignity of the child and promote self-esteem and self-confidence.

The teachers – pupils – parents nexus should be strengthened and expanded to include volunteers and NGO activists. The participatory approach enables the input of a large spectrum of stakeholders – teachers, parents, children, community leaders, and civil society activists. Children’s perspective is indispensable. Policies to support refugee children need to be seen as the responsibility of all school staff. Engaging parents is a factor crucial to both pupils’ success in schools and the integration of refugee families in the local communities. Parents should be considered as partners, though some of them could lack the knowledge and skills to interact effectively with teachers, and therefore should be supported in building these capacities.

Art and sport activities demonstrate impressively high potential. They allow preventing or overcoming misunderstandings and tensions, foster creativity and intercultural communication, create opportunities for playful exchange and dialogue, and empower participants. Stimulating opportunities for play and recreation are essential element of child-friendly environment. Guaranteeing the right of playing for all children is a powerful instrument for children’s self-fulfilment and self-esteem. A child asylum seeker in Norway synthesizes the empowering effect of the creative project of a book with stories of exile: “So we make a book about our different ideas and experiences, then one boy can be ten boys!” Creativity could transform traumatic experiences into artistic artefact and thus strengthens the symbolic capital of young creators.

Browsing through countries, policies, and practices, one realizes that what counts most – more than policies and programs which vacillate from one model to another – the main engine for successful integration are committed and active persons with intercultural sensitivity, ready to innovate, experiment, build bridges of understanding and intercultural dialogue.

Building inclusive, participatory and accountable education systems which treat children with dignity as result of sustainable policies and innovative local initiatives is the royal road for RASC integration


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[2] The distinction concerns mainly the Turkish and Moroccan, but the policy analysis has a larger validity.

[3] Education Act, 1998

[4] Aged 6 to16.

[5]  The introductory classes are a major concern in the public debate in Norway with two alternative interpretations: “On the one hand, not knowing Norwegian may cause RASC to feel excluded both linguistically and socially; but on the other hand, studies show that when RASC attend an introduction class, learning Norwegian is the priority and other school subjects are not prioritized. With the latter model, the children may run the risk of again being excluded by not getting to know their Norwegian peers” (Report on Norway, p. 21).

[6] “To the give RASC parts of the ordinary instruction in their own language, thus providing a bilingual school context”  (Report on Norway, p. 21).

[7] Ireland is a ‘champion’ with a guideline on regular school attendance in eighteen languages.

[8] Availability, accessibility, acceptability, adaptability.

3 thoughts on “REFUGEE CHILDREN: integration of the most vulnerable

  1. annakrasteva

    Павел, наистина това НЕ е мястото за обсъждане на извънаудиторни курове. И в момента съм в кабинета си в приемното си време на разположение на студентите.

  2. Pavel

    Мадам Кръстева, пиша ви мейли от няколко месеца, но нулев интерес от ваша страна! Става въпрос за два извънаудиторни курса, които са и последните кредит, необходими за завършване на програмата Международни отношения на френски език. Надявам се поне тук вие да видите и да ми отделите малко от ценното ви време, защото наистина е наложително!!!
    Поздрави Павел Тодоров!!!

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