Education and European Expats

With more and more citizens mobile (there are about 80 millions of Europeans expatriates in the world, including 14 millions in Europe), one of the challenges facing European expatriates is how to change from one school system to another. This does not mean that we should have a single European school system, but the transfer from one educational system to another should be facilitated, as well as the recognition of skills and qualifications in order to avoid obstacles to the freedom of movement of people, a key pillar of European Treaties.

Intra EU mobility is not the same for all Member States whether it is country of origin or destination country, or even both. For some people and for some countries, labour mobility is expected to be a step before coming back to the country of origin, especially at a time where the EU is progressively emerging from the economic crisis.

Several cities (e.g. Amsterdam) consider that having a flexible education infrastructure that covers the most significant needs of mobile citizens it is becoming a strategic issue for their development.

The integration in the education system of the hosting country is sometimes the only solution for some parents. In parallel, networks of national schools abroad have been developed for the education of the children of expatriates, but also by some countries with a view to enforcing their influence abroad. There is also an increasing number of international schools, including European schools. Finally, there are schools within the regular national system with an open mind to internationalisation.ETTW supports the different existing systems as the needs are different depending on specific situations.

Problems should be clearly identified and specified. As education is primarily a national competence, it should be assessed what could be addressed at the European level with a tangible added value. This document identifies those concerns. It has been prepared in consultation with national associations of expatriates which are members of the Board of ETTW and with the support of some experts in the field of education.

Bearing in mind this context, the following main issues have been identified:

  • Awareness of Ministers and European Institutions

In general, there is a lack of awareness within the ministries about education issues of mobile citizen, and  within the European institutions. An exchange of information between ministries of the different countries and with European Institutions on this topic should be organized.

  • Support to networks of schools abroad

National schools abroad are quite numerous (more than 3000). The network of international schools is also very large (more than 4000 schools of the International Baccalaureate Foundation). European schools have been created throughout Europes, and this network is developing itself.

There is a lack of knowledge about these schools, sometimes a lack of consciousness of opportunities in the  diaspora communities, and certainly a lack of awareness of their activities by European Institutions. ETTW prepared a draft inventory which could be the starting point for a better knowledge of networks of schools abroad.

Cooperation between these schools already exists to some extent, but could be reinforced. Some networks are interested in such a cooperation.

  • Mastering the instruction language

When pupils integrate into the education system of the hosting country, one key factor to facilitate the transition is a rapid mastering of the instructional language.

As there are plenty of examples of good practices identified by associations member of ETTW, they could take part in  the exchange of good practices organized at EU level,  with a view of a more systematic approach for the learning of the instruction language.

  • Recognition of grades and qualifications

A potential problem for the transition is the lack of recognition of level/grade between education systems. Due to the flexibility demonstrated by schools, no major difficulties have been identified for the lower grades. However, a lack of recognition does appear at baccalaureate level in some countries, especially when people repatriate to their country of origin.

When we come to qualifications, their recognition is still far from being a reality despite the fact that the European Institutions have started to work on some tools and agreements. ETTW asks for a more integrated and coherent European framework, for simplification of tools, for speeding up their implementation, and for a better and simplified access for citizens

  • A multicultural approach based on teacher training 

A multicultural approach in the classroom is one of the most significant identified issues. Teachers should learn about intercultural issues and how to deal with children that enter education with some differences in their knowledge. Exchange of teachers in Eramus+ should be intensified. Raising awareness of school leaders has also to be addressed, notably for the value it brings to the school itself. Non formal educational activities could be beneficial in this context.

Again, exchange of good practices organized at the EU level for inclusive education, using also non formal learning such as after school hours, could allow a qualitative leap.

  • Link to the country of origin

Children should have the opportunity to access learning programmes which will help to preserve their culture and language, as well as prepare them for a possible seamless re-migration to the education system of their home country. This point is especially important for European countries having been confronted by massive emigration due to the current economic crisis.

  • Funding 

Some mechanisms for tackling the issues identified in this document may be perceived to be rather expensive, but could profit from European funding, be it the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) or EU programmes, in particular Erasmus+.