How do schools ensure the inclusion of immigrant children and youth? – Observer

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Yesterday, classes resumed in all public schools in the country. From the looks of it, this will be another period of masks, tests, self-isolation and many uncertainties about the impact of the pandemic on schools, caregivers and families with children and youth attending schools.

Such consequences, however, do not manifest themselves in the same way for everyone: there are groups of students who are more vulnerable to systemic failures than others, with or without a pandemic. Among these groups, what corresponds to 6.7% of the total number of students enrolled in Portuguese basic and secondary schools are those of foreign nationality, of which there were more than 68,000 in the 2019/2020 academic year, an increase of 15,000 than in the previous one. year and the highest ever recorded. They are from 179 different nationalities, bringing with them very different (and sometimes heavier) baggage and diverse cultural experiences.

A report published last month by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has renewed important data on young immigrants and their performance in the latest PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) in 2018.

One of the facts revealed in the report is that in Portugal the difference between the performance of first-generation immigrant students (those who were not born in the country and have foreign parents/guardians) and local students is more than 30 points, for less . . These same immigrant students are also 21% less likely to be academically, socially and emotionally resilient compared to local students.


The report also indicated that almost 50% of immigrant students in Portugal in the first generation were considered “being late– came to the country after 12 years. These students tend to have more difficulty adapting to educational institutions than those who migrate earlier.

Added to this data is the percentage of high school completion by foreign students compared to local students. Despite its significant growth over the past decade, in the 2019/2020 academic year, 73.7% of immigrant students completed compulsory education, while 91.2% of the Portuguese did so.

However, family socioeconomic status remains a major predictor of school failure. Adjusted for such an index, the difference in performance between immigrants and local students is sharply reduced. This indicates that the disparity in academic outcomes is mainly due to the fact that immigrant students are in a more disadvantaged socioeconomic position than their local peers.

However, the education system is not ready to offer solutions to the specific problems that international students face in educational institutions and that hinder their success. In another recent OECD report, Portugal appears in the top five countries where teachers reported the need to have access to lifelong learning of learning strategies in a multicultural and multilingual context.

At the European level, at least 28 education systems have identified teaching in diverse and multicultural classrooms as a major problem (and gap) in public policy.

Ensuring that the training of teachers and technicians prepares them from the outset to apply more inclusive learning strategies and methodologies to all learners and eliminate any discriminatory practices is absolutely fundamental, but the solution does not end there.

Giving students the opportunity to lead this process can be very positive. The Diversity, Equality and Inclusion workshop we organized for 10th grade came up with several ideas to make the school more inclusive, such as: celebrating festivals of other cultures and reading books from different cultures, encouraging debate, collecting suggestions for everyone. students, have “disciplines” for planning the future of students, create podcasts, campaigns and lectures, do educational theater, among other things. These are applicable proposals that can span all disciplines and help create a more open and inclusive educational culture that will impact student development. In addition, admission structures such as peer mentoring and work plans can be created that take into account the adjustment process of students coming from other countries, always appreciating and never rejecting linguistic pluralism and cultural differences.

None of this should be seen as an “additional” or “additional” opportunity, but as something inseparable from a much more stimulating and successful learning experience for everyone.

Obviously, in order to put this into practice, it is necessary to guarantee the participation of several educational agents, such as cultural mediators, social specialists, psychologists, pedagogical mentors and other community stakeholders. In this sense, the indispensable role of the current governance structure is to ensure that every educational institution can count on these qualified professionals.

Fortunately, there are platforms and projects in Portugal that aim to create this culture, such as the REEI (Network of Schools for Intercultural Education) and pilot projects such as the “Cultura de Encontro” of the Aga Foundation. Khan in partnership with school clusters. These are important initiatives (among many others) that demonstrate commitment and willingness to embrace these changes.

If the task seems big, the opportunities may be even bigger. Having a multicultural school environment is a great opportunity to expand intercultural education beyond extracurricular projects and civics and truly turn it into a core educational value that permeates the entire curriculum and goes beyond the school walls.

We need to take more active steps to fulfill this obligation for the sake of the children and youth, immigrant or not, of all future citizens of this country.

Maria Fernanda Santos Souza is a pedagogical mentor at Teach For Portugal. A Brazilian MA student in education and physical literacy, she co-founded Global Shapers in Sao Luis, Brazil and held senior positions for four years with the global NGO AIESEC. He is an alumnus of the US Government Entrepreneurship Program, America’s Young Leaders Initiative. She has lived in three countries and considers herself a citizen of the world.

The Observer joins the Global Shapers Lisbon community of the World Economic Forum for a weekly discussion of the current topic of national politics through the eyes of one of these young leaders of Portuguese society. Thus, the article represents the personal opinion of the author within the values ​​of the Global Shapers community, although not binding.

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