In 2015, millions of migrants came to Europe in the hopes of finding security and safety for their families and themselves. The welcoming of refugees continues today and is likely to endure. The majority of recent migrants are not only coming from Syria to Europe but also from Iraq, Eritrea, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Adapting to a new country and culture can often bring initial resettlement discomfort and uncertainty. Countries seeking to encourage resettlement success are encouraged by nongovernmental organizations to take into account ways to facilitate refugee integration:

1. Education

Many European countries such as the U.K. and France provide education to refugee children. Education is considered a significant factor in successful refugee integration into society.

The British Council asserts, “[Education] would help to combat at source some of the factors contributing to mass migration, extremism and the risk of a lost generation that could blight Syria’s chances of recovery for years to come.”

2. Early Intervention

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) claims that immediate provision of language courses and access to health care is essential to integration. Additionally, when application-processing times cannot be shortened, it is important to provide refugees with skills training and civic integration training.

Children are especially encouraged to participate early in the process. Learning the language predicts overall educational outcomes. A year without education may have critical results.

3. The Work Force

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) encourages European countries to step up in assisting refugees in further developing their skills. The organization expresses that we should not forget Einstein was also a refugee.

The organization further states that assisting with refugee skill development also means ameliorating the economy. OECD recommends the placement of refugees be near the labor market where jobs are “readily available.”

4. Customized Integration

OECD encourages receiving countries to take into account the diversity of refugees. Oftentimes, refugees are coming from a variety of countries with a diverse range of educational and language backgrounds.

The organization asserts that customized attention to individuals will provide the best results for integration. This method will prepare migrants for self- dependence and the labor market.

As stated by UNHCR, “Far from a problem, refugees can and should be part of the solution to many of the challenges our societies confront. They bring hope: the hope of a better life and a better future for their children and ours.”

A substantial investment by countries is essential to provide refugees with the tools and skills necessary to advance and adapt in a new society.

Mayra Vega

Sources: British Council, Euractiv , UN Refugees, Keepeek
Photo: Google Images

How Poverty Affects Children’s Language Skills-TBP

Decades worth of research has shown that children from low-income families are at a higher risk of entering school with poor language skills compared to more privileged students. On average, they score two years behind on standardized language development tests.

New research has shown that this achievement gap could begin at as early as 18 months, and by the age of two, children from low-income families show a six-month gap in language proficiency. By the age of three, the difference in vocabulary can be so large that children would have to attend additional schooling to catch up. Furthermore, poor children have more difficulty understanding abstract language and possess lower reading and writing skills, which increases the odds that the child will drop out of school in the future. They often struggle with phonological awareness skills: the ability to consciously manipulate a language’s sound system.

There are many factors that contribute to this trend. Birth to the age of three is a critical period for language development, as the brain is rapidly growing and developing. Parents who are less educated may not know the importance of consistently using language with their baby, which can cause a delay in early language skills. Parental engagement from birth can help bridge this gap, regardless of income level.

Parents who are struggling financially may not have the time or resources to devote to reading to their children. This affects a child’s emerging literacy skills. Building a foundation for strong literacy skills must begin early, and the process of acquiring these skills begins at birth, so it is imperative that parents make an active effort to read to their children.

The vast difference in vocabulary between children of different income levels relates to their exposure to varied vocabulary at home. In the span of one year, children from poor families are exposed to 250,000 utterances at home, while children from wealthy families hear four million. Discussion in low-income households is often focused on daily living concerns, such as what to eat, what to do and other practical topics. Therefore, children may be unprepared for a different type of discussion in a school setting.

There are various strategies that educators and parents can use to close the achievement gap. Early education and intervention are extremely important. High-quality preschool programs produce the best results, particularly when children begin such programs during infancy. Equally important is educating and empowering families. Teaching parents the importance of reading to children, talking with their children as much as possible and building vocabulary by giving words meaningful context can lead to positive outcomes. Working with multiple generations of the family is the best way to promote literacy and language skills at home.

Language connects us all; therefore, it is necessary to foster children’s communications skills from a very young age. With the appropriate combination of early intervention and parental engagement, it is entirely possible for children from low-income families to overcome the language achievement gap.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Global Post, Stanford News
Photo: Flickr