On 7 June 2016, the European Commission published a Communication entitled “Action Plan on the integration of third country nationals”.

ETUCE (the European region of Education International) welcomed the fact that the Communication emphasises the importance of education and the role of teachers in the integration of migrants and refugees:

Promoting the recruitment of teachers with a migrant background and equipping teachers and school staff with the skills needed to manage diversity in schools and integration of refugees and migrants are indeed essential tasks. Nevertheless, the European Commission initiative does not suggest sustainable investment and a comprehensive support mechanism for schools and teachers to tackle these issues. Another issue of concern is the fact that the initiative does not propose sustainable funding but only private and temporary investment solutions to refugees’ support. 

Early childhood education as an excellent tool of integration for families is rightly highlighted, however the sector is under increased privatization in several EU countries.

Teachers need initial and continuous training to be able to deliver inclusive education. Furthermore, urgent financial investment is necessary to recruit new teachers, to ensure that they are hired under terms that guarantee a stable, secure and lasting employment, to recognize the qualifications of migrant and refugee teachers, and to guarantee the provision of compensation for teachers for additional individualized teaching and working hours.

‘The unresolved problem of low status of teachers in still too many countries of Europe, related to not appropriate salary and working conditions, impacts teachers’ recruitment and retention and will have an enormous impact on integration of migrants and refugees to education and the labour market.” said Martin Rømer, European director of ETUCE. “Improving the status of teachers is of utmost importance in order to attract more high-skilled professionals to the already ageing teaching profession”, he added.

ETUCE welcomed the fact that the communication underlined the role of social partners in working together with the Commission and governments on the initiative, but stressed that effective social dialogue with teachers unions should be emphasized. Teacher trade unions have been acting on supporting teaching refugees and migrants, therefore their actions and involvement in the design making should be further supported.

Credits photography: DFID - UK Department for International Development / Wikimedia Commons.