E.g., 06/26/2024
E.g., 06/26/2024
Mainstreaming 2.0: How Europe’s Education Systems Can Boost Migrant Inclusion

Children who arrive in Europe as immigrants or who have immigrant parents face a variety of barriers to success in European school systems. Some may not speak the language of instruction fluently or have interrupted prior schooling. Others may find their access to top-notch programs and schools limited by their family’s incomplete knowledge of how European education systems work. Students who arrive in their mid- to late teenage years also frequently face a race to plug linguistic and subject-matter gaps in order to earn a degree before aging out of the system.

Many of these challenges existed before the 2015­–16 European migration crisis. Yet the arrival during 2015-16 of more than 750,000 children with diverse linguistic backgrounds, experiences with formal education, and needs for psychosocial support brought fresh urgency to debates about how to best adapt European education systems to support the integration success of migrant-background children and families. While many policymakers have pledged their support to the principle of mainstreaming—the idea that public services should be evaluated and adjusted to ensure they are able to serve diverse populations—implementation across EU countries, localities, and individual schools remains uneven.

This report examines the steps European education systems are taking (or might take) to give all students an equitable shot at academic and future labor-market success. It also considers the role schools are increasingly playing in efforts to support the integration of new and longstanding immigrant communities. From ensuring that all school staff are equipped to support diverse classrooms to improving governance structures to prepare for future demographic and social changes, the authors highlight key lessons learned in the education and adjacent policy fields.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. New Twists on Old Challenges

A. The Demographic Context

B. The Socioeconomic Context

C. The Political Context

D. The System Context

E. The Governance Context

III. Restructuring Education Systems for Inclusion

Lesson #1: Ensure the Whole Education Workforce Is Equipped to Support Diverse Learners

Lesson #2: Addressing Students’ Diverse Educational, Health, and Socioemotional Needs across the Education Trajectory

Lesson #3: Consider the Broader Role of Schools as Integration Actors

Lesson #4: Governance and Crisis Management

Lesson #5: Adapting Content and Pedagogy to 21st Century Needs

IV. Conclusions: Mainstreaming 2.0?