Eurydice, a network that monitors the organisation of education systems across Europe, has released the 2017 edition of Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe.
The publication, an update of the previous report issued in 2012, offers key figures on the nature and content of language instruction for schoolchildren across European countries, including a section comparing the support available for migrant children.
Focus on migrant children
Notably, the report offers a section focusing on the experiences of migrant children. The study finds that assessment of language capability for newly arrived migrant children varies between European countries, with schools determining their own procedures for the reception of newly-arrived migrant students.
Some countries (Latvia, Sweden and Norway) have central policies on testing all newly-arrived migrant children in order to assess the support they require. Other countries (Belgium [Flemish Community], Croatia and Austria) assess all migrant and non-migrant schoolchildren’s proficiency in the language of instruction at specific points throughout their education. Other countries test migrant students informally to identify their needs (such as in the French community of Belgium), or provide tools for schools to use in assessing students' ability in the language of schooling (as in Slovenia), despite there being no specific central recommendations or regulations regarding testing.
The report also looks at the provision of additional classes in the language of the host country for newly arrived migrant children. The report found that almost all countries offer some form of provision, ranging from additional classes in the language of schooling during or outside school hours (e.g. Belgium, France and Austria) to individualised teaching or teaching assistance in class (e.g. Estonia, Portugal and Serbia). Only five countries (Bulgaria, Romania, UK, Iceland and FYRO Macedonia) have no central recommendations.
The provision of intensive preparatory classes is less common, with only a handful of countries offering classes and the majority of countries offering no classes or issuing no central recommendations. Initiatives range from special classes which combine core school instruction with intensive German language tuition in some Länder in Germany, to countries where migrant children are integrated immediately into mainstream education (e.g. France). The specified maximum period of preparatory classes is most commonly limited to one or two years, as is the case in Belgium, France, Lithuania, Norway and Denmark.
Wider educational support
A need for multilingual education is recognised by the European Commission, which has financed the Sirius policy network to conduct research and develop policy on the education of children and young people with migrant backgrounds.
A collaboration between the Commission and Member States to identify successful strategies for language learning in multilingual settings has also been summarised in a report presenting good practices in the field.
In addition, a series of thematic workshops and Peer Learning Activities on the subject of the role of school education in facilitating the integration of migrant children were organised in 2016 and 2017. These events and reports have contributed to the wider European review of the Key Competence Framework for Lifelong Learning.
The following activities continue to contribute to the wider educational support for migrant students at European level:
- Policy experimentation and the development of new strategies for language tuition in multilingual classrooms through the Erasmus+ programme,.
- Development and sharing of new methods for language learning through a Commission partnership with the Council of Europe and its Centre for Modern Languages,.
- Further resources and support for teachers working in multilingual classrooms as part of the Commission’s strategy for the teaching professions.