Schools across Europe are seeing an increasing number of children who are either born in another country or whose parents are immigrants and who do not speak the school language at home. This presents a challenge as schools are expected to deliver quality education for all children, regardless of their ethnic background or linguistic abilities. Especially with the recent arrival of thousands of refugee children, the situation has become acute. This project seeks to respond to this challenge with a Strategic Partnership of seven organizations from six different European countries who will work together to make bilingual literacy and numeracy materials available to schools and to share best practices among teacher trainers and school leaders on how to create inclusive multilingual classrooms.
Children who lack proficiency in their country’s host language of instruction are unlikely to achieve academic success. Yet, mother tongue language support is crucial for the development of migrant children’s self-esteem and plays an essential role in increasing parental involvement, which both enhance children’s learning outcomes. The costs involved and a lack of awareness among policy makers about the benefits of mother tongue learning explain why few EU countries provide mother tongue support for migrant children.
This Strategic Partnership is one of the spin-offs of the Sirius European Policy Network on Education of Migrant Children and builds on key policy recommendations from Sirius to reduce the achievement gap between native and non-native pupils in Europe. The Partnership is named after a bright star, AVIOR. The star is invisible from the Northern hemisphere, referring to the multitude of language skills that migrant children bring to the classrooms, but which often remain hidden to their teachers. The partnership brings together seven organizations from six countries. We are research and training centres, NGOs and network organizations.
Objectives and activities:
Our goal is to improve the basic numeracy and literacy skills of migrant children and to reduce the achievement gap between native and non-native pupils in Europe. By collaborating and sharing best practices at European level, we can reduce the costs of producing bilingual materials, improve teacher professional competence and enhance migrant parental involvement in the learning process of their children.
We employ a three-pronged approach: 1) Bilingual resources: rather than creating new materials, we translate and adapt existing bilingual materials of high quality which are offered in both the host language and the mother tongue of migrant children; (2) Teacher competence: teachers, parents and teacher trainers share best practices on multilingual and mother tongue education through study visits to schools and teacher training institutes in European countries; (3) Teacher/parent collaborative networks: parents and teachers are actively engaged in local case studies involving the newly translated bilingual resources in order to provide deeper insight into the barriers and opportunities of migrant parental involvement. This has the added benefit of creating informal local networks of parents, communities and schools, ensuring the continuity of the project’s objectives.
The ultimate beneficiaries of this project are primary school children between 4-8 years with migrant backgrounds who speak a different language at home than the school language. The target groups are teachers, teacher trainers, school leaders, parents and migrant communities, schools, municipalities, Ministries of Education and EU policy makers.
Expected results and impact:
Our bilingual materials in numeracy and literacy learning will be online available as open educational resources. Together with our study visits and our local case studies, we expect to impact:
– school leaders and teachers who will be better prepared to meet the needs of diverse pupils groups with different languages, in particular regarding basic literacy and numeracy skills;
– teachers and teacher trainers who will have increased capacity to cater to the needs of multilingual children with a migrant background in acquiring basic numeracy and literacy skills by using digital bilingual resources;
– pupils who will have greater opportunities to learn the instruction language through their mother tongues in regular school lessons and to acquire better and faster command of basic numeracy and literacy skills;
– schools who will be encouraged to use more bilingual educational material and thereby become more inclusive;
policy makers who will have gained deeper insight into obstacles and opportunities to use bilingual and mother tongue materials in classrooms.