Education remains a critical element of government policy in the twenty-first century. A society with strong educational outcomes will have a better chance for economic and social development, and realize the potential of its citizens. Strong education systems allow societies to become equitable and meritocratic at the same time in a balanced way, facilitating both social mobility and inclusion. Education empowers people to participate fully in the community and strengthens democracies.
European Union policy has underlined the importance of education, notably in its most recent EU growth and competitiveness strategy, EU2020. The strategy sets ambitious targets for the improvement of educational results: reducing school drop-out rates to below 10%, and ensuring that at least 40% of 30-34 year old citizens have completed tertiary education by 2020. In order to achieve this goal, the European Commission has developed an Education and Training Strategy (ET2020) based on strategic objectives that include promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship. While European countries have well-established education systems, there exists a strong inequality of access to schooling and quality of education for socio-economically disadvantaged communities across the continent, in particular for migrant groups. Children with migrant background are disproportionally represented among dropouts and the lowest performing percentiles because they have a number of critical, and specific, education needs that are not currently met through mainstream education policy.
The SIRIUS European Policy Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background organised a conference in Brussels on 19th and 20th November 2014 entitled “Helping children and youth with migrant background succeed: Making schools matter for all“. During the conference, the results of SIRIUS’ work in the areas of implementing education policies, improving interactions in the classroom and involving communities in schooling were presented. 125 participants, including national and EU policy makers, practitioners and stakeholders, gathered in the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions to discuss these results and highlight appropriate targeted measures and mainstreaming policies to promote the development of national and EU policies on high quality inclusive education based on evidence and tested in practice.