Tag Archives: language education

Educating a new population of refugees in Europe

Our review of education news this week focuses on European countries adapting to a surging refugee population, mostly from Syria.

As The Guardian reported, Germany expects the number of refugees entering the country to surpass the million mark. About 196,000 children will enter the German school system this year, and 8,264 “special classes” have been created to help the new students catch up with their peers. Language is a primary concern, and the government has recruited 8,500 people to teach child refugees the German language. Education authorities describe the population change as a challenge, but one that “will become the norm for a long time to come.” In all, Germany will need up to 20,000 teachers by next summer.

Similarly, The Helsinki Times reported that Finland will have to recruit hundreds of teachers as well. As Heljä Misukka, an education director at the Trade Union of Education (OAJ), explained, “The number of unaccompanied minors who have arrived in Finland this year is 2,000. A child is entitled to basic education immediately.” Teachers are needed to teach, for example, preparatory classes for immigrants, integrated classes for special-needs learners and classes for learners studying Finnish as a second language.

While finding teachers for the new students is a necessity, a recent Economist article also argued that distribution of the immigrant students will also be important to their success. As the article explained, the biggest problem is that refugee children tend to be concentrated together. “In Norway, Denmark and Sweden about 70% go to schools where at least half of the pupils are immigrants. This means they are partially segregated and less likely to learn the local language.”

However, a new United Nations Refugee Agency survey has shown that the Syrian refugee population entering Greece is largely highly-skilled and well-educated. The majority is under the age of 35; 86% say they have secondary school or university education. Since, as the Economist argued, parents’ level of education is “the most important predictor of pupils’ school results,” with proper integration, these students might adapt quickly.

Deirdre Faughey

International Cooperation in Education

Our monthly scan of news and reports often reveal numerous discussions of ways in which different countries are collaborating to support the development of education. These collaborations are reflected in a number of reports on the development and deepening of partnerships around particular educational issues, or as part of larger efforts addressing many aspects of society. This month’s news includes cooperative agreements that focus on issues like vocational education, technology, and system building.

Vocational Education:

One of the ways in which countries are working together to improve education is as part of a larger effort to meet the needs of the labor market. For example, Germany is working with Bulgaria on a joint vocational education project that aims to help Bulgaria make reforms to existing legislation, standards, and programs. As Bulgaria’s Education Minister explained in www.focus-fen.com  “Bulgaria would like to introduce the dual education system so that there is a link between vocational education and the labour market.” The Slovak Spectator reported that Germany will also be working to build a similar collaboration with Austria.

Meanwhile, as reported by Thailand’s public relations departmentThailand, Laos, and Vietnam are working together to create tri-country vocational certification programs that will allow students with opportunities to study in each country. Executive Director of the ASEAN University Network (AUN) Nantana Gajaseni said that each ASEAN government should support the grouping of educational institutions specializing in similar fields of study as clusters, in order to push for education development in this region.


Finland and Estonia are also working together as part of a specific endeavor to develop cloud technology that will “step up” educational and technological cooperation between the two countries. According to the Finnish government’s press release, “This joint effort aims to enable the creation of cloud services in education and learning and the use of digital materials and find new ways of learning and teaching in the learning environments in both countries. In particular, we wish to help change the school culture to become more student-oriented and inspiring and promote approaches to teaching where the focus is on experiences of success.”

System Building:

As noted in Business Reporter, Denmark and Pakistan have been expanding upon a supportive relationship, as part of Denmark’s interest in “conflict-hit” Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Denmark supports civil society organizations in the area, such as the Youth Parliament, to which it has given financial aid of 3.5 million dollars. In his most recent visit, Denmark’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Jesper Moller Sorensen, highlighted the importance of education in nation-building, and suggested that Pakistan increase education spending as a means of investing in the country’s future.
A new cooperation between China and South Africa has also been announced. According to Business Day Live, South Africa is “hoping to get lessons from China on curriculum development and implementation; teacher training and development; vocational education and training; and research and development to improve basic education.” The agreement also includes a cultural exchange and the teaching of Mandarin in South African schools.


Bilateral Partnerships:

Cooperative education efforts have also been seen in countries that seem to be looking to build alliance in multiple arenas. For example, The National reports that the United Arab Emirates and South Korea have been building a bilateral strategic partnership since 2009, which is now expanding to the areas of education, cultural, medical and health care sectors. The Kuwait News Agency also reported that Canada and Kuwait are working on ways to enhance cooperation in scientific, cultural, and educational fields, and to facilitate visa procedures for Kuwaiti students and their parents.


Memoranda of Understanding:

In the news we also see multiple examples of countries signing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on educational cooperation. Examples include:


Interview with the Minister of Education

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (May 7, 2013)

Japan's Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura. REUTERS photo

Japan’s Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura. REUTERS photo

Mr. Shimomura, the Minister of Education, Culture , Sports, Science, and Technology, has just returned form his visit to European nations. Reflecting on his tour, he commented on the urgent necessity of shifting the paradigm of Japanese language education abroad. In the past, the target population of Japanese language education abroad was children of Japanese citizens, who intended to return to Japan in the near future. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of Japanese children who are not planning to return to Japan. Many of these children are biracial, having a Japanese parent who hopes to instill and nurture his/her children’s identity as Japanese. In response to this need, the MEXT will generate an plan on how to spread Japanese language education globally.
In addition, the MEXT plans to suggest other nations to teach Japanese in public schools. For example, the UK, has a plan of teaching seven foreign languages in elementary schools soon. However, in the current plan, Japanese is not included as one of those seven languages. The MEXT will communicate the ministry of education in the U.K about how important it is to teach Japanese to prepare global citizens, who can contribute to the world economy.

For more information:

Council proposes lowering age for English education

Japan’s ambitious proposals for higher education and language sectors

LDP takes aim at English education, seeks to boost TOEFL levels


Education reform puts Spain, Catalonia on collision course

The Hurriyet Daily News (December 7, 2012)

Irene Rigau EFE

Irene Rigau EFE

Education reforms and austerity measures in Spain have caused tension and separatist sentiments in the Catalonian region. At issue is the issue of teaching the Catalan language in schools. Jose Ignacio Wert (Spain’s National Education Minister) proposed that all schools focus on teaching the Spanish language in all regions, effectively removing the requirement that students in Catalonia speak Catalan in university. He also proposed that the region should fund Spanish-language private schooling for families that demanded it. Defenders of the current system, such as Irene Rigau (Catalonia regional education counselor) view the plan as an assault on cultural identity, while Wert insisted “there is no part of the reform that undervalues the importance of Catalan.”

For more information:

La Generalitat cree que las palabras de Wert responden a una “visión preconstitucional de España”

Catalans protest ‘return to Franco’ as schools are told to teach more Spanish

Barcelona soccer club defends use, teaching of Catalan language at politically sensitive time