New report underlines the key role of education in the inclusion of immigrant students

By Aoileann Ní Bhroin

Posted: 21 March, 2018

A new report published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and mandated by the European Commission, confirms the need to promote inclusive education and common values.

The report‘s main findings highlight that immigrant students are struggling to integrate in schools in many Member States, often due to lower socio-economic status and language barriers. For example, in the EU overall, 72.3% of native students achieve baseline academic proficiency, while this is only the case for 54.3% of immigrant students. Moreover, the report provides new evidence that students with an immigrant background often lack a sense of belonging to their school community and are more likely to be affected by schoolwork-related anxiety. While two thirds (66.5%) of native students experience a sense of belonging at school, this is only the case for less than 60% (58.6) of first generation immigrant students. At the same time, however, they tend to show higher aspirations to succeed than native students. While 57.55% of native students have high aspirations to achieve, this is true for almost two thirds (65.8%) of immigrant students.

The report also underlines the significant role education systems, schools and teachers can play in helping immigrant students integrate into their communities. In addition, it confirms that education is crucial in enabling immigrants to acquire skills and contribute to the economy, that it has a big role to play in fostering their social and emotional well-being and is key in sustaining their motivation to participate in the social and civic life of their new communities.

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “This report shows that we are on the right track when promoting active citizenship, common values and high quality, inclusive education. The European Commission strives to provide everyone in Europe with real opportunities. This is why our first package of measures to build a European Education Area presented in January included a proposal on promoting inclusive education and common values. And I will shortly present a second package of initiatives including proposals to promote quality in early childhood education and care and in language learning. All these initiatives can help pupils and students overcome disadvantages linked to an immigrant background.”

Migration flows are profoundly changing the composition of classrooms. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results reveal that in 2015, almost one in four 15-year-old students in OECD countries reported that they were either foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent. These numbers exclude the tens of thousands of refugees who have recently arrived in many of the countries that participated in PISA.

Inclusive education based on common values is at the core of the Commission’s work towards building a European Education Area by 2025. It was also one of the main topics discussed at the first European Education Summit, which Commissioner Navracsics hosted in Brussels in January and brought together around 450 stakeholders. In spring 2018, the Commission will present further initiatives, including proposals on the mutual recognition of diplomas, language learning, and a quality framework for early childhood education and care.


European leaders have in recent months expressed their strong support for ensuring a smooth and full integration of immigrants as well as establishing common values and inclusive societies. The Country Reports published by the European Commission on 7 March 2018 in the context of the European Semester highlight the challenges for pupils with an immigrant background in many Member States.

In January, as part of its first package of measures to build the European Education Area by 2025, the Commission proposed a Council Recommendation on promoting common values, inclusive education, and the European dimension of teaching. This builds on the Paris Declaration on promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education adopted at the informal meeting of Education Ministers on 17 March 2015. To guide its proposal, the Commission held a public consultation in 2017.

For more information

OECD Report: The resilience of students with an immigrant background: Factors that shape well-being

Factsheet on the European Education Area

EU Communication on Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture

Multilingual classrooms: Erasmus+ is here to help all teachers!

“Multilingual education in the light of diversity – lessons learned”

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