Policy & Practice - A Development Education Review



Global Education and Migration in a Changing European Union

Spring 2021

Romina De Angelis

Abstract: Migration flows impact European national education systems with challenges and opportunities linked to the very fundamental values of human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy and equality on which the European Union (EU) is based.  In this article, global education (GE) is regarded as an effective pedagogic and policy approach to address the drawbacks of previous education and policy strategies undertaken to deal with questions related to migration within the EU.  In line with the EU values, GE is rooted in the principles of equity and social justice, and it offers a policy approach that can be suitable to the diversified contexts of several EU countries.  GE represents an opportunity to serve multiple purposes, to include: contributing to immigrants’ inclusive integration across EU host countries; encouraging more welcoming attitudes in host societies; and catering to the manifold learning needs of different types of migrants.

This article investigates core aspects related to European citizens’ perceptions of migration and migrants, constraints of earlier policy approaches to migrants’ integration and current accomplishments and shortcomings in implementing GE across the EU.  Secondary analysis of a range of quantitative and qualitative data reveals three main themes within the findings: i) prevailing negative perceptions on migrants within the EU; ii) positive outcomes in countries where joint action on GE initiatives has been undertaken among various stakeholders; iii) ongoing challenges in the implementation of GE due to political priorities, discontinued funding, lack of adequate national frameworks and teacher training.  Accordingly, this article includes fundamental recommendations focused on: i) promoting GE initiatives in national education systems across the EU; ii) improving them through consistent, cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder funding; iii) ensuring their effectiveness through teacher education and active CSOs participation.

Key words: Global Education; Migration; European Union.


This article is conceived as a contribution towards addressing the impacts of contingent migration flows on European national education systems.  Migration poses challenges that global education (GE) can help turn into opportunities with approaches rooted in the European Union’s (EU) fundamental values of human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy and equality.  Findings show that this is all the more important given the rising levels of xenophobic and populist attitudes, and conservative political parties having gained power across several EU countries.  To ensure an effective GE approach to migration, it is equally crucial to tackle aspects related to the lack of: national strategies, adequate funding, multi-stakeholder cooperation, migrant students’ integration in education systems and appropriate teacher education. 

In this context, GE is intended as a learning process which can improve approaches to migration within EU countries and their differing demands.  GE shares with the realms of development education (DE), global learning (GL), global citizenship education (GCE) and others an interest in educational approaches that promote human rights, equity, social change and social justice.  By converging the competences of those similar yet distinct fields, GE provides an overarching conceptual and policy approach pertinent to the different contexts of various EU countries.  In this regard, as detailed below, current research presents instances of improved results in countries where various national bodies have cooperatively implemented GE initiatives.  Nevertheless, data also reveal ongoing challenges in GE implementation related to political, financial and policy aspects.

The main areas of exploration in this article focus on European citizens’ perceptions on migration, limitations of previous policy approaches to migrants’ integration and current achievements and shortcomings in implementing GE across the EU.  Research findings from secondary analysis of a range of quantitative and qualitative data show: prevailing negative perceptions toward migrants within the EU; positive outcomes in countries where joint action on GE initiatives has been undertaken among various stakeholders; ongoing challenges in the implementation of GE due to political priorities, discontinued funding and lack of adequate national frameworks.  Accordingly, this article includes some fundamental recommendations focused on: promoting GE initiatives in national education systems across the EU; improving them through consistent, cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder funding; and ensuring their effectiveness through teacher education and active civil society organisations’ (CSOs) participation.

Defining global education

In accordance with EU fundamental values, GE constitutes a path towards achieving multiple goals, such as: improving immigrants’ integration across EU host countries, cultivating more welcoming attitudes in host societies and meeting the diverse learning needs of different types of migrants.  Drawing from a definition of GE in the Maastricht Declaration (DEEEP, 2002: 2):

“Global Education is education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all.  GE is understood to encompass Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention and Intercultural Education; being the global dimensions of Education for Citizenship”.

As Wegimont (2020) suggests, the Maastricht definition contains and conveys a conceptually balanced understanding that encompasses GE educational subject matter, values and political aspects.  This definition of GE continues to bolster improvements in theory, research, policy and practice in this field.  Similarly, Bourn (2020) acknowledges that, while comprising areas of interest and concern common to for instance DE, ESD, intercultural, peace and citizenship education, GE has recently emerged as a discrete educational field.  Specifically, these other educations can be viewed as constituting various dimensions within GE.  Notably, as Bourn articulates, GE as a pedagogy (besides being an educational field) places particular emphasis on its social justice component: ‘an important feature of global education (GE) has been the continued evolution of a distinctive educational approach that is both an educational field and a pedagogy of global social justice’ (Bourn, 2020:11).

The aims of GE are also in line with the Agenda for Sustainable Development’s emphasis on the multifaceted benefits for development and growth that are brought about by migrants’ contributions in host coutries (as well as their coutry of origin and transit countries).  The scope of GE is also aligned with the SDG target 4.7 that promotes learning and appreciation of cultural diversity and the role it plays in sustainable development (United Nations General Assembly, 2015). 

In this way, the provision of GE within the EU context can be improved by disseminating learning from research on the experiences of various EU countries in responding to the questions of education and migration, which can inform policy-making in order to ensure the strengthening of GE within national education systems.  In this regard, as noted by Wegimont, the Maastricht definition of GE is also particularly advantageous - among other aspects - for ‘developing pan-European policy learning initiatives, respecting national particularities and differing educational systems, while enabling a common policy language to emerge’ (Wegimont, 2020: 29).

In view of the above considerations, GE is envisioned as an auspicious way forward to efficiently tackle the shortcomings of education policy approaches to migration undertaken over the years, as it is based on the principles of equity, understanding and welcoming of diversity and social justice, together with providing an overarching policy approach pertinent to the contexts of different EU countries.  Within this understanding, GE overcomes the dichotomy between ‘we’ and ‘the other’ and it allows the free expression and harmonious integration of a variety of identities that are brought about by migration within hosting countries.  As Ramalho (2020) tenderly notes in her letter to Paulo Freire, he represents a symbolic example of the oneness that GE seeks to promote between migrants and their host societies, and he is also the emblem of the great potential of the successful implementation of GE.

In exile from his native Brazil, Freire was himself a political refugee in other countries.  Here, thanks to the welcoming and nurturing connections found in the host societies, he was able to not only constructively contribute to his host countries, but also to produce knowledge and transformative practices that are still globally recognised and widely used.  Interestingly, the core ideas of Freire’s thought are also central aspects of GE’s focus and pedagogies (Bourn, 2020).  That is to say, the elements of transformation, critical thinking and dialogue as the bases to engender cultural action, by starting from problem-based questions and activities (Freire, 2017).  These elements are essential in multicultural societies, where integration is born out of the ability of various ethnic groups to mutually understand and influence each other’s consciousness and practices.  In this context, by adopting a Freirean perspective, the quality of tolerance is indispensable both for the host society and for migrants in order to welcome each other:

“the learning of tolerance takes place through testimony.  Above all, it implies that, while fighting for my dream, I must not become passionately closed within myself.  It is necessary that I open myself to knowledge and refuse to isolate myself within the circle of my own truth or reject all that is different from it or from me” (Freire and Freire, 1997: 50, 51)

The transformative power of GE relies also in the potential to engender individual and collective changes in both migrants and host societies.  Once again, in Freire’s words: ‘We are transformative beings and not beings for accommodation’ (Freire and Freire, 1997: 36).  Concurrently, in this way GE also attempts to overcome the limitations of national models of integration with a global outlook by taking into consideration the interdependent social, economic, cultural, political and environmental dimensions that distinguish the complex phenomenon of migration and the notion of migrant (Hicks, 2009).

In an attempt to simplify such complexities, the following section explores the notions of migration and migrant origin people with a specific focus on their application within the EU context.

Defining migration and migrant origin people

It is essential to deconstruct the concepts of migration and migrant using a different approach to the Global Monitoring Report 2019 (UNESCO, 2018), where a more general definition of the term is employed to thoroughly comprehend the migration framework within which GE approaches are formulated.  Doing so helps us acknowledge a diversity of challenges posed by migration, which require diversified policy and educational responses (McCann, 2017).

According to Eurostat (2018a): ‘Migration refers to the number of migrants, people changing their residence to or from a given area (usually a country) during a given time period (usually one year)’.  Consequently, immigration is understood as ‘the action by which a person establishes his or her usual residence in the territory of a Member State for a period that is, or is expected to be, of at least 12 months, having previously been usually resident in another Member State or a third country’ and an immigrant is defined as a person undertaking said action (Ibid.).  However, the Regulation (EC) Number 862/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of the European Union includes in its definitions (Article 2) the notions of: ‘long-term resident’, ‘third-country national’, ‘refugee status’, ‘subsidiary protection status’, ‘family members’ and ‘unaccompanied minor’ (Official Journal of the European Union, 2007).

The paper commissioned for the Global Education Monitoring Report 2019 Consultation on Migration acknowledges the importance of identifying various types of migrants depending on the purposes of migration (Tani, UNSW and IZA, 2017).  Accordingly, additional (sub) categories of migrants arise from the combination of the definitions provided by the International Organisation for Migration and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD’s) International Migration Outlook (IOM, 2019; OECD, 2018a), to include: ‘displaced persons’, ‘economic migrants’, ‘seasonal workers’, ‘trainees’, ‘working holidaymakers’, ‘intra-company transferees’, ‘intra-EU/EFTA posted workers’, ‘students’ and ‘asylum seekers’.  As a consequence, the movement of different types of migrants with different backgrounds and reasons to migrate within the EU territory has posed a variety of challenges for education policies and systems within EU countries.  For instance, a study by Eurostat on education indicators (Eurostat, 2015), as part of a larger study on migrant integration, reports that the proportion of early school leavers, as well as school failure and low-achievement in the EU is higher for non-EU citizens than for nationals.  Similarly, this is proven also for students belonging to the second generation of migrants (UNESCO, 2018).  For the latter, in particular, it proves especially difficult to comprehend and abide by all the regulations of the education systems in the host country (Koehler, Schneider and Young, 2019).

Among this variety of definitions, unaccompanied minors specifically, together with migrants holding a refugee status, displaced persons and asylum seekers constitute especially urgent challenges for educational institutions in various EU countries.  In particular, educational institutions play a key role in ensuring access to education for all as a fundamental human right.  Furthermore, they are a crucial apparatus to foster social integration and economic progress (Ibid.), especially for immigrants in a disadvantaged position, such as the categories mentioned above.  What is more, these categories of migrants are the most socially and emotionally vulnerable and education can meaningfully contribute to supporting them in their integration process (Fazel et al., 2012).  For these reasons, a strengthened GE approach rooted in the principle of equity and in the appreciation of diversity can be beneficial in facilitating the integration of refugees, unaccompanied minors and other categories at risk.

Considering the varying notions of migration and migrant, the multi-dimensional approach offered by GE caters to the diverse demands that education systems in various EU nations are presented with, by overcoming the drawbacks of past and current educational approaches and contributing to the comprehensive integration of migrants, with the aim to:

“advance from the ad-hoc-measures taken in reaction to the immediate emergencies to more permanent structures and concepts that presume high levels of heterogeneity in classrooms as the most likely normality of schools also in the future” (Koehler, Schneider and Young, 2019: 14).

Research Methods

The methodological approach adopted in this research study involved the secondary analysis of a range of quantitative and qualitative data.  In particular, the research process began by defining the research questions that the study sought to answer.  Accordingly, the research questions were defined as follows:

  • What are the main GE and migration issues within the EU?
  • What are the existing GE policies and their gaps in relation to migration issues?
  • How are current issues and policy gaps addressed through GE?

Secondary quantitative data collection was combined with a thorough review of recent literature, with a view to developing a deeper, integrated and comprehensive understanding and synthesis of the complexities inherent within the research topic (Goodwin, 2012).  Moreover, secondary analysis in social research has been increasingly recognised as an effective method to establish and enrich the ‘dialogue between professional social scientists in government and academic social scientists’ (Hakim cited in Goodwin, 2012: 27).

Data were gathered from multiple sources by developing search strings and searching GE and migration databases and academic journals.  Sources of data included statistical and qualitative studies, policy documents, European agencies’ websites, government and NGOs’ databases and country-specific reports.  The consultation of current updates (i.e. up until November 2020) of official data, reports and reviews of documents produced by this variety of stakeholders ensured that the data included in this study were not obsolete and/or irrelevant (Young and Ryu, 2012).  Data from these sources were combined with a review of theoretical and policy approaches to migration and migrants, as well as peer-reviewed studies, to determine the core issues and policies wherein (and how) a GE approach in the context of EU migration could be meaningful.

Different data sets were then analysed and interpreted through the use of content analysis of documents and triangulation techniques, to identify recurrent themes and to ensure a comprehensive understanding to meaningfully fulfill the research scope (Krippendorff, 2004).  Findings from this exploration are presented in the sections below.

Limitations and further research

The limitations of this study are related to the use of secondary data and the lack of primary data generated specifically for the purposes of this research (e.g. exact figures for each category of migrant).  A second constraint concerned the limited access to literature and data in languages other than English for a more comprehensive understanding of GE and migration in the specific contexts of various EU countries.

Further research and longitudinal studies are needed to monitor and assess the outcomes of national GE programmes and initiatives over longer periods of time, as well as qualitative research focused on the achievements and challenges of particular local contexts by also including migrants’ perspectives.  Finally, another area of exploration for current scholarship concerns the impacts of COVID-19 on GE and migration.  Exploratory and evaluative studies related to this aspect are needed in order to assess the ongoing changes and educational needs that EU countries are and will be facing in the wake of the global pandemic.

Prior responses to migration and diversity, limitations and interculturalism for integration

Historically, between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, assimilation was the common theoretical and policy approach to the immigration phenomenon within Europe.  This approach prescribed that immigrants should absorb the ‘ethos’ (Council of Europe, 2008: 18) of their host country.  A main drawback of the assimilation method was its devaluing of the distinctiveness of immigrants’ own diversity within the host society.  As a response to the shortcomings of assimilation, multiculturalism acknowledged the diversity of minority communities in opposition to a majority group within a country.  However, this approach perpetuated the divide among different groups within a state, engendered segregation and overshadowed the cultural diversity that characterised minority groups.  Consequently, as noted in the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue (Ibid.), neither approaches ensured integration of immigrants and social cohesion between them and members of the host society.

Both the assimilation and multiculturalism strategies lacked an element of dialogue, which is instead at the basis of interculturalism (Ibid.).  In this way, the intercultural approach promotes human rights, democracy, rule of law, equality (of rights) and it supports cultural pluralism.  Furthermore, interculturalism envisages a combined effort among governments, formal and informal learning institutions, and civil society.  What is more, the core constitutive elements of the intercultural dialogue are aligned with the purposes of GE outlined above.  GE initiatives and learning approaches allow immigrants and host country citizens to harmoniously embrace each other’s differences, based on a sense of interconnectedness at a global level.  Accordingly, combining the notions of intercultural dialogue with those entailed in GE leads to the development of a spirit of ‘intercultural citizenship’, which enables learners to acquire the capacity to thoroughly understand and actively endorse diversity (Tarozzi and Torres, 2016).

Research Findings: EU perceptions of, responses to and challenges of migration

An overview of the various policy approaches undertaken by EU countries to tackle issues of migration since the late nineteenth century brings to the fore inherent complexities.  These complexities relate to defining, understanding and addressing issues related to the conditions of migrants and the diversities they entail.  The analysis also encompasses the evaluation of the achievements and shortcomings of GE initiatives over time, with a particular focus between 2015 and 2020.

Perceptions on migrants within Europe

Statistical country reports within the EU such as the Special Eurobarometer Report (EU, 2018) identify aspects related to a large sample of EU citizens’ attitudes towards: immigrants’ integration in the EU, immigrants’ integration with regard to education, policy measures that would facilitate their integration and the responsibilities of various national actors in supporting this process.  Accordingly, the key themes that need addressing, based on public opinion perceptions from the survey, highlight the element of ‘integration’ as a major challenge.  Specifically, host countries whose borders are located in the Mediterranean and Eastern EU areas are characterised by negative perceptions of immigrants’ integration and their impact on the country.  Consequently, these hostile perceptions are linked to elements of fear and perceptions in influencing integration outcomes and a recognised need for governments to better manage the question of immigrants’ integration.  An akin need for efforts to counter stereotypes and antagonistic attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers was reported by the Global Education Network Europe (GENE) (2018).

Improving attitudes towards immigrants within host societies is seen as an indispensable long-term investment by a majority of EU citizens.  Additionally, findings also report that EU citizens share a positive attitude towards the EU playing a leading role in supporting individual countries in the integration process.  The ability of immigrants to speak the language of their host country is predominantly perceived as crucial for an effective integration.  Furthermore, two main divides are recurrently identified in the Eurobarometer report.  Respectively, a regional divide identifies, on the one hand, Northern Europe and Portugal, which display more positive attitudes towards immigrants; whereas, on the other hand, countries of Central and Eastern Europe together with several Mediterranean countries (i.e. those with higher migration flows) present more negative attitudes.  The second dichotomy is a socio-demographic one between younger, well-educated and economically secure respondents having more positive perceptions vis-à-vis older, less educated and economically vulnerable respondents holding more negative opinions.

The process of integration is largely perceived as a ‘two-way process’ (EU, 2018), where both immigrants and the host society should play a role.  In these regards, a study conducted in Denmark by Vitus and Jarlby (2021) highlights the importance of calling attention to social and cultural aspects of the integration process, besides ensuring refugees’ readiness for the labour market and economic independence.  Based on perspectives gathered from frontline integration workers, the authors expound the neglected need of young refugees to receive bespoke services to facilitate their integration (Ibid.).  Finally, within the two-way process perspective, educational institutions, local and regional authorities and the government are seen as the main actors that need to be involved in the integration process (EU, 2018).

The implications of these findings will be considered in the final section of the article, with the next section presenting the achievements and shortcomings in the process of implementation of GE in the EU over time.

Achievements and shortcomings in implementing GE across the EU

The report by GENE (2017) on the Status of GE in European countries acknowledged the key role played by both formal and non-formal education, together with civil society organisations (CSOs) to counter the negative attitudes stemming from recent migration crises in various countries.  Similarly, the 2018 Report on the Status of Global Education in Europe (GENE, 2018) highlighted that the question of migration has been at the top of the agenda in various countries.  The report noted that valuable efforts were made in several countries, to include: Austria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal and Sweden.  Positive results were achieved through a number of initiatives directed at the integration of children of a migrant background into education systems through pre-primary programmes (OECD, 2015), seminars and workshops to support teachers implement GE in their daily practices, and inter-ministerial and multi-stakeholders coordinated work.

Five GENE participants also introduced national strategies for GE, respectively Austria, Czech Republic, France, Italy and Portugal (GENE, 2017).  In 2018, the list included Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain (GENE, 2020).  Additionally, other examples of good practice in various countries, such as Belgium, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland and Sweden, reported positive evaluation activities related to efficient implementation of NGO-funded GE initiatives (GENE, 2017).  In 2018, Belgium constituted an exemplar illustration of cooperation between NGOs and schools in building GE skills, where country-wise interventions displayed positive impacts on the following themes:

“1. Learn about the world and its interconnections.  2. Feel concerned (understand the importance of solidarity, equality between humans, develop empathy).  3. Develop a positive and non-discriminative thinking.  4. Be aware of your local and global responsibility.  5. Build a free critical opinion.  6. Carry out a useful action.  7. Adhere freely to the values of education for global citizenship” (GENE, 2020: 23).

The 2020 GENE report also recorded increased funding to GE initiatives by the Ministries of Education in various countries, although they were only yet at the initial stage.  Nevertheless, this step shows hope for growing and sustained funding over time.

Another example of good practice provided in the 2020 report is the introduction of the European qualifications passport for refugees in Armenia, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK.  This initiative allows refugees without documentation to have their skills and qualifications recognised in order to facilitate their integration process into further education and employment in the host country (GENE, 2020).  Additionally, the document reported recent steps towards increasing inter-ministerial cooperation and multi-stakeholder engagement in some countries, such as Czech Republic, France, Luxemburg, Malta and Poland (Ibid).

Current Challenges

A study conducted by CONCORD (2018) called attention on the fact that, between 2011 and 2015, national governments’ investment in GE across the EU stagnated, thus affecting the ability of some countries to fulfill their commitments towards GE.  This inability to successfully implement GE programmes was due to the fact that the amount of public funding allocated to GE is an indicator that reflects the countries’ level of commitment to the ideas and values promoted by GE.  Nevertheless, the study acknowledged the influence of various critical factors affecting the countries’ budget allocation for GE.  In particular, it emphasised the perspectives shared by respondents from NGOs, who referred to national politics and political priorities as crucial factors, rather than the effects of the economic crisis.  Furthermore, the report identified systemic weaknesses that need addressing in relation to: multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral partnerships and funding at both national and EU-levels, and between government and non-governmental sectors.  Along the same lines, with regard to implementing GE in primary schools, Tarozzi and Inguaggiato (2018) maintained that, for an effective implementation in schools, a multi-stakeholder policy within a national framework is not only desirable but necessary.

Additionally, the widespread lack of teacher education is alarming, in that it can result in discrimination (UNESCO, 2018; OECD, 2018b) and segregation within classrooms, schools and societies at large.  As Koehler, Schneider and Young (2019) remarked in their study on the challenges faced by EU education systems in relation to including and integrating young refugees, lack of teacher training can adversely affect multifold aspects.  Teachers need to be equipped with not only the competences needed to teach the national language as a second language, but also a set of knowledge and skills related to migration and diversity issues. Furthermore, they need to be able to address the diverse needs of students from varied backgrounds, while at the same time ensuring a tolerant environment within the classroom where diversity is respected and celebrated (Ibid.).  An instance can be found in the discrimination that is performed towards (sometimes second-generation) high-achieving migrant students from higher socio-economic backgrounds and who are, apparently, well-integrated within Swedish society (Wiltgren, 2020).  One of the research participants belonging to the migrant students’ group interviewed by Wiltgren (2020) explained that, despite attending courses aimed at broadening cultural perspectives and promoting unity among people, many Swedish students tend to self-isolate from students who are perceived as not being fully Swedish.  Similarly, teachers do not intervene and consider the phenomenon as an unfortunate occurrence (ibid).  Likewise, the study by Migliarini (2018) shows how in the Italian context immigrants are often discriminated against through a process of ‘colour-evasion Italian style’, wherein there is lack of awareness about underlying racist and discriminatory processes.

These processes frequently result in the phenomenon of segregation of migrant students (especially asylum seekers and refugees) in the education system, by labelling them as SEN students for their cultural differences and deriving difficulties.  As Migliarini (2018) sharply notes, such a phenomenon is representative of an excessive Eurocentric curriculum and lack of adequate tools to address the varied needs of migrants.  In these regards, based on the definition of GE outlined above as an ‘education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all’ (DEEEP, 2002: 2), promoting GE pedagogies would contribute to addressing issues like those in the Italian context.  With regard to the aspects emerging from the above examples, the focus of GE on intercultural dialogue and social justice constitutes a particularly helpful feature for teacher education and the education curriculum in general.  Moreover, among the key factors that Koehler, Schneider and Young (2019) identified as having either adverse or beneficial effects on the educational achievement of second-generation migrants and refugees there is also educational access.  Specifically, ensuring educational access respectively in early years for second-generation migrants and promptly after arrival for refugees could positively contribute to their educational accomplishments.

For what concerns the funding trends across EU countries in relation to Official Development Assistance (ODA), which is associated to the funding of GE programmes and projects, the 2018 GENE report (based on OECD data) noted that ODA spending decreased between 2016 and 2017, although bilateral aid and humanitarian assistance allocations increased.  However, the report also underlined the difficulty in estimating definite calculations of expenditures on GE in formal education systems, due to the lack of allocation of separate budgets within Ministries of Education.  The study acknowledged that in countries where expenditure on GE increased despite reductions in ODA, this was due to ring-fencing of funding towards GE, which was considered as a priority in addressing crucial challenges.  In the case of the Netherlands, funding for a GE core-structure ceased altogether, thus worryingly undermining the future implementation of GE in the country, as well as in any other country where similar central structures have been discontinued.  Nevertheless, the report on The State of Global Education in Europe 2019 depicted a differing situation, where eight countries that had previously reduced their ODA budgets increased them again.  Furthermore, the general picture among GENE participating countries included raised levels in twelve countries and decreased ones in ten (GENE, 2020).

In view of the findings presented above, the main challenges to the implementation of GE in the context of migration in the EU identified in the analysis of existing data, policies and educational initiatives can be summarised by the seven following points: i) GE integration processes are adversely affected by negative perceptions of migrants among EU citizens; ii) lack of effective and consistent GE national strategies across the EU; iii) lack of adequate and continued national governments’ funding of GE initiatives; iv) lack of extensive inter-ministerial, multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral cooperation and funding; v) lack of coordinated action among formal and non-formal education and CSOs; vi) lack of thorough integration of learners of migrant background into national education systems (especially vulnerable categories); vii) lack of adequate teacher education.

Addressing aspects related to limited funding sources for GE and cooperation among various actors within countries across the EU is paramount, in consideration of the positive impacts that GE initiatives can have on migration issues.  The instance of Belgium mentioned in the previous section is an exemplary case.  Furthermore, the seven points in the list above are interrelated, in that continued funding of GE initiatives can facilitate improved national strategies and multi-agency actions, which can in turn positively affect both perceptions of migrants among EU citizens and migrants’ integration within EU national education systems, with better equipped and skilled teachers.

Conclusions and recommendations

Drawing on the lessons learned from current research on and past responses to issues of migration and integration within the EU and in order to address the main problems identified above, the conclusions and recommendations presented in this section are rooted in a view of GE as a long-term integrating framework, rather than a mere quick-fix for urgent situations.  In line with the aims of the international community and with a global focus on migration (Global Compact for Migration, 2018), GE encompasses the multi-dimensional reality and commitments emphasised by the Declaration of the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.  It considers the varied needs of both migrants and their host societies, whose perceptions play a crucial role in facilitating intercultural dialogue and integration.  GE is intended as an effective structural response at various institutional levels, including formal and non-formal education.

Prioritising GE in national political agendas would, therefore, help improve European citizens’ perceptions of migrants, which would contribute to building more inclusive and integrative societies in the long-term.  Similarly, it would reinforce existing and develop new national strategies for GE in EU countries that do not already have any.  This could be done by formulating national action plans that focus on structural and systemic inclusion of GE initiatives with a multi-stakeholder approach.  Of equal importance would be national governments’ multi-annual funding of GE structures, agencies and programmes to support long-term results and envisioning NGOs as crucial actors within this process.  As it emerged from the findings in the sections above, GE initiatives would benefit from the promotion of inter-ministerial, multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral cooperation and funding.  Moreover, both the initiatives and their funding need to be conceived as a long-term process at various levels and be coordinated among multiple actors.

Another essential aspect for the effectiveness of GE relates to bridging formal, non-formal education and local realities together.  This connection can be established by: integrating migration issues and migrants’ stories within the school curriculum.  Through this process differing needs of diverse migrant typologies and local contexts can be addressed.  Also, introducing adult learning programmes (through local authorities and CSOs) for both adult migrants and local citizens could create a safe space to promote language learning, intercultural dialogue, expression and appreciation of diversity.  Of a more compelling nature is the need to ensure the Right to Education for children of migrant background, including refugees and unaccompanied minors.  The provision of inclusive education should be an imperative commitment across EU countries, as well as early-childhood and pre-/after-school programmes to improve language and subject-specific skills, irrespective of migrants’ document processing status.

Finally, the provision of adequate teacher education should be prioritised, by including fast-track recognition of certificates for teachers of migrant background.  Facilitating their integration into host countries’ education systems represents a great potential in supporting migrant students’ and their families’ integration process (Economou, 2020; Georgi, 2016).  Equipping local teachers with knowledge, competences and a support system is necessary to prepare them to respond to migrants’ needs and to assist local learners in cultivating a culture of dialogue for integration, appreciation of diversity and its potentials.  Continuous work on improving the implementation of GE initiatives at various levels within EU national systems, as well as formal and non-formal educational structures can enhance the multifold issues related to migration in the EU discussed in this article.  The transformative power of GE, which is rooted in a commitment to social justice and human flourishing, is key to shape a better EU and global society.


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Romina De Angelis is an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded PhD at the Institute of Education, University College London.  Her doctoral research focuses on ‘Social, transformative, and sustainable learning: a study of a Jamaican school and community’.  Her research interests include education for sustainable development, global learning, social learning, transformative learning, post-colonialism, indigenous knowledge systems and sustainable communities.



De Angelis, R (2021) ‘Global Education and Migration in a Changing European Union’, Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 32, Spring, pp. 55 -78.