E.g., 09/17/2019
E.g., 09/17/2019

Language Support for Youth with a Migrant Background: Policies that Effectively Promote Inclusion

Policy Briefs
November 2014

Language Support for Youth with a Migrant Background: Policies that Effectively Promote Inclusion

It is crucial for children of migrant background in Europe to become proficient in their host country's main language of instruction. Lack of proficiency stands in the way of students' ability to comprehend and follow lessons, which in turn can lead to poor academic performance, lack of interest in education, and even behavioral problems. To avoid such outcomes for migrant children, schools should provide sufficient support for youth to learn and master the language of instruction. Teachers also should receive training to address the linguistic needs of their students in the best way possible. At the same time, schools could support the continued use and study of students' mother tongue, which can both help students learn the host-country language and enrich the educational environment by introducing cultural and linguistic diversity.

This policy brief is part of a series produced by the SIRIUS Network in collaboration with MPI Europe, which focuses on how policies at the EU level and within individual Member States can better support the education outcomes of young people with a migrant background.


This project is co-funded by the European Union

Recent studies have identified a number of tools and approaches that can provide effective language support for migrant children, including adequate initial assessment of language skills, language induction programs that ensure a smooth transition into mainstream classrooms, ongoing language support, training for teachers of all subjects, and valuing students' mother tongue. Despite these suggestions, there is no blueprint for what ideal language support might look like, and many European Union (EU) Member States are facing gaps in implementation of best practices.

This MPI Europe policy brief provides key points and good practice examples on what comprehensive language support might look like. It recommends actions and directions that can be taken when developing national language strategies to address immigrant students’ needs, from school-level practices on state-language and mother-tongue instruction to community-based approaches and professionalization of all relevant stakeholders. The brief also emphasizes the importance of adjusting every policy recommendation and good practice to the realities of particular context.

Table of Contents 

I. Knowing the Language Is Key to Academic Success

II. The European Policy Context

A Comprehensive Mix of Language Support Policies: Evidence

III. Gaps in the Implementation of Good Practices

Barriers to Policy Implementation

IV. Building an EU Framework of Supportive Policies