During its two days’ visit to the Refugee Reception Center of Samos island, the Executive board of the Greek Primary Teachers’ Federation DOE observed utterly disappointing, unacceptable and miserable conditions.

The camp with a capacity to accommodate hardly 800 refugees, counts now at least 3.805 residents, according to official sources. A figure, however, which is very much disputed by other reliable sources that estimate it close to six thousand. There are in total 813 children, 75% of which are aged less than 12 years old.

The board took note that the kindergarten, welcoming 25 children in a class, operates under indescribable conditions, noticeably lacking even a toilet, and without any basic teaching material, thanks to the great efforts of the staff. 

Meetings and school visits were held with the local Education Trade Unions, especially in those schools having reception classes for refugee children. The board  discussed with teachers the severe everyday problems, both of staff and students,  as well as unfortunate developments relating to locals’ reaction which sometimes refrained from sending their children to school because of the presence of refugee children.  Productive meetings were also held with parents and other institutions. These meetings brought to light, once more, the inefficacy of the government to find solutions to the whole tragic situation regarding health, social and educational issues.

The board strongly condemned any aggressive behavior targeting either teachers or parents that want to defend the educational rights of all children, Greek or refugee ones.

This visit proved once again the already known and widely recognized crucial role of the teachers who, with an incredible zeal and self-denial and without real support, undeniably create through their work “an oasis in the turmoil”.

As part of the the EU Convince project, a joint European project of EI/ETUCE, the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) and the European School Heads Association(ESHA) on democratic citizenship and inclusive education, an online 6-week course entitled “Citizenship and Human Rights Education for Change” will take place from 29 April to 9 June 2019.

This initiative is free of charge and offers teachers, school leaders, other education personnel, and education employers, an opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills in teaching and learning about democratic citizenship, human rights and inclusive education. The course is held in English and French. It combines theoretical knowledge (key definitions, framework and principles) and practical teaching, through an analysis of existing and innovative practices, teaching styles, approaches and methods in these domains.

The course encompasses three modules:

Module 1 focuses on the international and regional definitions and framework in relation to Human Rights Education.

Module 2 looks at specific contexts and issues (such as disability rights and migration) as well as aspects related to inclusive education (such as for instance inclusion of minorities or the preventative role of inclusive education against violence and extremism).

Module 3 deals with the principles of the whole school and a rights-based approach to education. In particular, it stresses the importance of participatory management of the school community, which involves addressing the needs of learners, education personnel and the wider community, not only within the curriculum, but across the whole-school and learning environment.

The online course is coordinated by the Global Campus of Human Rights and is taught by academics and experts drawn from a cross-section of constituencies. The faculty includes, among others: Prof. Léonce Bekemans, University of Padova; Prof. Florence Bénoit-Rohmer, University of Strasbourg; Prof. Paolo de Stefani, University of Padova; Prof. Anja Mihr, OSCE Academy in Bishkek; Prof. Manfred Nowak, Global Campus of Human Rights.

Free enrolment is possible from 25 March until 19 May 2019, please visit : https://eiuc.org/education/e-learning/moocs/eu-convince/how-to-enrol.html

More information and material for the promotion of the MOOC (flyer, video teaser, Tweets, and others) is available on the MOOC webpage.


Access to education and training for children with migrant backgrounds is not sufficient if it is not combined with quality education and learning which meets students’ learning needs and aspiration, concludes the Eurydice report on “Integrating Students from Migrant Backgrounds into Schools in Europe: National Policies and Measures” published on 17 January 2019. 

The report provides a comparative analysis of key policies and measures on integration of migrant students promoted by top-level education authorities in 42 European education systems (in 28 EU member states). This mapping covers a variety of areas, such as governance; access to education; language, learning and psycho-social support; and teachers and school heads.

The report highlights that even though in majority of education systems in Europe, the access to education is provided for children with migrant background and intercultural education is integrated to some extend in the national curricula, policies and measures on learning support tend to focus on academic aspects, rather than students’ social and emotional needs (‘whole-child approach’). 

Moreover, according to the report, an initial and continued assessment of migrant students’ educational progress is not widely carried out and mainly focuses on the language of instruction.

Other challenges emphasised in the study include unpreparedness of teachers to work in culturally diverse classrooms due to the lack of teacher training on these topics, migrant students whose home language differs from the language of instruction not having a right to study their home language at school, and lack of support provided for teachers and school heads (for example, providing teaching assistants and intercultural mediators). 

Among countries having good strategies for integrating migrant students in education, the report names Germany and Austria for a strong emphasis on diversity, Spain (Comunidad Autonoma de Cataluña), Portugal and Slovenia as successful in following a whole-child approach, and Finland and Sweden for keeping both the diversity dimension and the whole-child approach.

At the end of 2018, the third case study visit of the ETUCE/EFEE project “European Sectoral Social Partners in Education promoting effective integration of migrants and refugees in education” took place in Belgium, organised with the support of EI/ETUCE member organisation in Belgium, ACOD-Onderwijs, partner to this project. The visit aimed at identifying challenges, concrete solutions and joint social partners’ initiatives for effectively integrating migrants and refugees in education. ETUCE and EFEE representatives, the research expert accompanying the project and a project advisory group representative from Cyprus had the opportunity to familiarize with good practices and challenges in the Flemish education system regarding policies of inclusion and integration.

Participants engaged in fruitful dialogue with representatives from the Flemish Ministry of Education, education employers’ organisations and community organisations, as well as with teachers, school leaders, migrant and refugee students, to better understand the Flemish educational context of migrants’ integration and the role of social partners within.

Despite the shared goal of delivering equal educational opportunities for all, the many efforts and good practice examples on how to provide newcomers with a quick access to mainstream education and to language learning, challenges remain as regards, for example, teaching and learning in a second language. According to interviewed teachers and school leaders, the use of the mother-tongue is central to allow migrant and refugee students to nurture their learning process. “In our daily work, there is an on-going tension between an holistic approach to deliver equal educational opportunities and flexible and individual learning paths”, said a school leader in Antwerp.

Education personnel engaged in schools enrolling big numbers of students of migrant origin recognise the need for specific competences to cater for the needs of migrant and refugee students, especially through initial training and continuous professional development programmes that fit the needs of those dealing with the everyday needs of migrants and refugee students. In this context, intercultural skills, social workers’ aptitudes and competences, coaching and psychosocial support are deemed of utmost importance to deal, for example, with traumatised students. Recognising that migrant and refugee children carry with themselves specific needs but also their own resources and strengths, a secondary school teacher in Antwerp said: “When I first started, four years ago, I felt I expected very little out of the learning process of the migrant and refugee students I was teaching to. Now, I realise I need to set myself higher expectations because the life of these children moves on, and it has to move on”.

On International Migrants Day, Education International reaffirms its commitment to defend and promote the rights of migrant workers and refugees as well as migrant and refugee teachers and education personnel.

Education International (EI) and Global Unions call on Governments to ratify and implement United Nations (UN), International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions and other international instruments to protect migrant workers’ rights and, especially, their right to join and form trade unions.

The recent adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, orderly and Regular Migration at the Intergovernmental Conference in Morocco on 10-11 December was a ground-breaking agreement in international migration governance. This agreement is not legally binding, but provide a framework for international cooperation on migration. In addition, there is a Global Compact on Refugees, which does not replace the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol on Refugees.

Ensuring migrants’ access to quality public services

“Education Is an important in the new Global Compact for Migration, and so are the other human rights of migrants,” EI General Secretary David Edwards highlighted, also insisting on the importance of a whole-of-society approach to migration at local and national levels.

Edwards also underlined that host and transit countries should ensure migrants’ access to quality public services, in particular, their access to quality public education regardless of their migration status: “We should make our education systems, schools and all education institutions more inclusive, sensitive and responsive to the needs of migrant children and youth. Governments need to ensure that the curriculum and learning materials reflect the ever increasing diversity of the student population, and are developed with the full involvement of educators and their unions. Furthermore, Governments should work, in cooperation with education unions, to enable the recognition of the qualifications of migrant and refugee teachers.”

Addressing the root causes of migration and displacement

Noting that “the Global Compact offers a much-needed encouragement for Member States to work with other nations, the UN, trade unions, civil society organisations and others, to tackle the pressing challenges related to international migration,” Edwards stressed that this agreement “provides an opportunity for the UN and governments to address the root causes of migration and displacement. The UN, its agencies and governments need to prevent and tackle conflict head on; to combat conflict, violence, poverty, climate change and its devastating consequences on the environment and human life; and to deal with economic inequities within and across countries and regions.”

Edwards added that, “ensuring peace and political stability and improving socio-economic conditions in home countries will make migration an option rather a necessity for millions of people on the move. Let’s remember that people have the freedom to move and the right to migrate, but shouldn’t be forced to do so by circumstances beyond their control.”

Making a real difference in the lives of migrant workers on the ground

Finally, the EI leader acknowledged that “the ultimate measure of the success of the Global Compact will be whether it makes a real difference in the lives of migrant workers on the ground by ensuring freedom of association, their rights to form and join trade unions, to social protection and to engage in collective bargaining.  Through their unions and communities, many migrant workers will continue to organise and mobilise. The Global Compact should be supportive as a vehicle to promote decent work, economic and social justice.”