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07 May 2024

Belgium: Evaluation of school integration programmes for migrant children

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This study, published in the Children and Society journal in September 2023, examines the factors that play a role in meeting the social, educational and emotional needs of immigrant children enrolled in a preparatory programme before integrating into the formal school system in Belgium. The study was conducted through semi-structured interviews with teachers and programme coordinators in secondary schools and reception centres in the greater Brussels region, and stresses the importance of education and its role in the successful integration of children. Key findings and recommendations are outlined below.

Educational policies and integration

In Belgium, educational policies vary across French-, Flemish-, and German-speaking communities. The Wallonia-Brussels Federation organises preparatory programmes for immigrant children called DASPA (Dispositif d’Acceuil et de Scolarisation des Primo-Arrivants). Schools can create their own syllabus and no additional pedagogical training is required from teachers involved in the DASPA programme.

The integration of immigrant children within the educational system faces challenges due to inadequate communication regarding programmes like DASPA. The results of this study reveal that schools and teachers can address the needs of students through various strategies, such as adapting teaching methods to the requirements of each child, incorporating students’ language and culture into teaching, collaborating with specialists and organising extracurricular activities. Moreover, the positive integration process of immigrant children is dependent on a welcoming and inclusive school environment. Some of the challenges faced include insufficient guidance to comprehend the national education system, and the next steps after completing preparatory classes. The study recommends that DASPA and schools create communication channels with children and parents to help them make better informed decisions about their educational journey, and suggests the development of targeted individual orientation plans so that students can reflect on their motivations and the benefits of learning.

Broader involvement of actors

The study also suggests wider involvement of stakeholders in order to enhance learning outcomes for immigrant children. This includes peers, schools, families and other service providers and community members. An expansion of the DASPA programme could also be beneficial, according to the study, as it is currently implemented in a limited number of schools. It is also crucial to provide a multidimensional choice of activities so that contact between DASPA children and their mainstream school peers is increased. Ethnic homogeneity and class heterogeneity also need to be addressed, according to the study, as they could hinder the learning process of children: research suggests that language learning can be impeded by homogeneous classes and that mixed-age groups may not receive adequate individualised educational approaches. 

The study also finds that teachers often lack the necessary skills to support students with limited literacy abilities. To solve this issue, teacher training and sensitisation programmes are suggested in order to bring innovative teaching methods into the classroom. Such initiatives, says the study, would improve outcomes for illiterate students and would benefit teachers in both DASPA and mainstream classrooms.

Details

Authors
Lise Desmée, Victor Cebotari
Geographic area
Belgium
Contributor type
Academics and experts
Original source
Posted by
Julie Minders
Country Coordinator

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