Early childhood and schools

Strength Through Diversity - 1st Policy Forum, 9-10 May 2017


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Even though the current migration crisis in Europe is the largest since the Second World War, migration flows had been steadily increasing over the last decades. About 5 million permanent migrants arrived to OECD countries in 2015, an increase of about 20% relative to 2014, with family reunification and free movement accounting for around two-thirds of these permanent entries. Immigrant source countries have also become more diverse since 2000. These trends constitute major challenges for communities, education and training systems in OECD countries, which are still dealing with the consequences of the recent economic crisis.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows that in 2015 13% of 15-year-old students in OECD countries came from an immigrant background, compared to just 9% in 2006. However, the European Social Survey reveals that in some countries there are negative attitudes towards immigrants, which can impact immigrant students’ sense of belonging in new communities.

Education plays a central role in promoting the successful integration of migrant youth by fostering good cognitive, physical, social, and psychological outcomes that support both a sense of belonging and participation in society. At the same time, education can teach students to value diversity and tolerance, making the native population more welcoming towards migrants and, as a result, support their successful integration.

Some education systems appear to be more successful than others in supporting the integration of migrants and, by extension, advancing the economic and social well-being of all members of society. Immigrant students’ performance and feelings of acceptance vary considerably across countries. For example, PISA shows that over 60% of first-generation immigrant students in Greece are low-performers, but only about 10 % are low-performers in countries as diverse as Singapore and Canada. Similarly, more than 90% of students in Spain feel a sense of belonging at school, but only 40% of students in France feel that they belong at school. This variation suggests both that education policy has an impact on integration, and that countries can learn from one other about how best to achieve that goal.

The OECD project “Strength through Diversity: the Integration of immigrants and refugees in school and training systems” seeks to:

  • identify a new set of indicators to examine how societies have responded and are responding to the challenges to social cohesion posed large scale international migration; 
  • create improved data infrastructure that supports the development of strong evidence; 
  • identify policy responses that have been pursued by countries and their results; 
  • collect evidence on the conditions under which such policies achieve or do not achieve their objectives; and 
  • stimulate a discussion among key stakeholders to support peer learning and strengthen collaboration.
The objectives were to 
  • Identify common challenges for integrating immigrant students and promoting tolerance and diversity through education;
  • Examine promising practices and innovative approaches used by countries; 
  • Facilitate peer-learning between countries; and
  • Discuss themes for future policy fora .
Keynote Speakers
  • Professor Maurice Crul, VU University, Amsterdam

 Opening presentation

 Keynote Presentation

 Session 1: Discussion of common challenges and polices for migrant integration in the education system

 Session 2: Discussion of common challenges and policies for migrant integration in education systems





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