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Elektroniczna platforma na rzecz uczenia się dorosłych w Europie



Integrating Migrant Adults through Language Training

by EBSN CBS Editor

/nb/file/language-training-immigrantslanguage training for immigrants


The European Basic Skills Network is announcing an online discussion on language training programs for adults in the framework of the network's Capacity Building Series. The discussion is scheduled to start on 2 April, 2019 9:00 (CET) and be finalised on 3 April, 2019 17:00 (CET) and its results will contribute to the EBSN's forthcoming open education resource (OER) in the theme of migrant education.


During the discussion, participants are encouraged to share their views and experiences by answering the following questions:

  • Does your country have national systems for the language training and certification of immigrants? Are there specific linguistic requirements linked to residence permits and/or acquisition of nationality? How is the training organized? Who are the providers? How is it financed?
  • How is the quality of the training ensured? How is teacher training organized? What is the role of volunteers, if any?
  • Are there general methodological guidelines available to the providers? To what extent are digital tools used in the training provision?
  • Are literacy and linguistic training identified as two separate issues? How is the linguistic training of adults with very low levels of literacy organized?


The Capacity Building Series of EBSN provides free open educational resources (OERs) and massive online courses (MOOCs) through EPALE, to help the implementation of the European Commission recommendations on Upskilling pathways in EU Member States. EPALE is funded by the Erasmus+ programme, as part the European Commission’s ongoing commitment to improving the quality of adult learning provision in Europe. The project is implemented with the support of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).
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Graciela Sbertolis bilde
And welcome to our second day of discussions.
We continue with the same questions as yesterday, but I hope that you all can also read the contributions from other participants, reflect on them, and comment and add relevant questions.
Let's learn from each other and have a rich discussion!
Rolanda Rimkevičienės bilde
I am Rolanda from Lithuania. I am an English as a second language teacher and a lecturer. I mainly work with adults. I do not have many immigrants learning English as a foreign language, but this topic and experience of other teachers and educators is very interesting for me. 

I would like to know more about literacy and linguistic training in other countries. Maybe there are some resources or information on psychological aspects of immigrants joining the groups of students or learners who are not immigrants and how to help them feel better in such groups.
Graciela Sbertolis bilde
Just to check if I have got it right: you want to know about eperiences from teaching classes where immigrants and non-immigrants are learning together. Is that right? That is a little bit outside the theme of this discussion, but I hope some of our participants will be able to answer you.

What I think happens in most European countries is that you find many different types of immigrants, at all possible levels of education, and with many types of different needs. Immigrants who have spent several years in their new country, have mastered the new language to a certain degree, and want to continue their education, are likely to be found in mixed classes, yes. And hopefully, they do feel quite a bit integrated in their new country so that this situation does not present a problem... Am I being too naive? Is it a problem? What is your own experience, Rolanda?
Ina den Hollanders bilde
In the Netherlands we have since a long time special immigration policy for newly arrived immigrants, funded in the law (WIN, law on civic integration of new arrived immigrants from 1998). 
Since the introduction of this law we have obligations for immigrants to follow language courses, pass tests and acquire knowledge of Dutch society. In immigration policy we distinguish between second language learners who have an obligation to follow language and integration courses (immigrants just arrived in the Netherlands, called ‘newcomers’), and second language learners who arrived already a long time ago and just want to improve their language skills (called ‘old comers’). 

The policy for adult immigrants changed over the years, depending on the policy of the political parties in government, and so did the law on civic integration. Since immigration became a major topic in the public debate we saw more and more a restrictive policy in terms of funding and a change from an obligation to participate in courses to the obligation to pass exams. 
The underlying idea seems to be more and more that the immigrant is not willing to learn the language and to participate and therefore he must be forced to do so. 

This change of concept we see reflected in two changes in government policy. The first great change came in 2007 under a right wing government. From that moment on immigrants had not only the obligation to follow courses, but also to pass a civic integration exam, consisting of a language exam and an exam in knowledge of Dutch society. The exam was since then also required to obtain a residence permit. The immigrant has 3,5 years to follow the program and pass the exams. 
The municipalities were responsible for the implementation of this new policy and as an example of the restrictive character of this new policy we saw the definition of a whole range of sanctions the local municipality could impose on immigrants who did not meet their obligations. The new policy is in 2007 enshrined in the new WI (Wet Inburgering, law on civic integration). 
 Adult immigrants have an obligation to pass the civic integration exam at level A2 or a State Exam on the levels B1 or C1. The State exam provides access to VET courses (B1) and universities and universities of applied sciences (HBO, higher education). Since 2015 immigrants also have to follow a program and pass an examination to obtain labor market skills (ONA). 

In 2013 a new shift in policy occurred. Since that time immigrants have to pay for language courses themselves. This is based on the general policy of the government that we live in a “participation society” in which citizens are more selfresponsible. According to this vision, the immigrant is mainly responsible himself for his or her integration in Dutch society and therefore also for financing, although a loan under favorable conditions was made possible. 
Not only the ideal of the participation society was leading to this policy shift, the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment who is responsible for the integration policy, moreover, also hoped the act of 2013 should lead to a structural saving of €333 million every year. 
Because of this new policy the role of municipalities was restricted in the new law. Before 2007 they contracted providers and where responsible for the implementation of the law and guidance of immigrants during their integration course. Since 2013 they are only responsible for courses for refugees (those granted asylum), at certified providers by providing a loan which doesn’t need to be returned if the recipient passes the exam. 

Another example that more and more the change in the public debate about immigration and refugees is defining policy on language learning for immigrants we saw in 2017: immigrants also have to sign a Participation statement. By signing this Participation statement immigrants declare that they will actively participate in Dutch society and respect what is important in the Netherlands. 

What did all these rapid lawchanges and short implementation periods brought us? Not the most effective and efficiënt integration policy for the immigrant. 
In 2017 the Algemene Rekenkamer ( the Court of Audit, the national court that evaluates government policy) came to negative conclusions concerning the outcomes of the implementation of the law from 2013: 
 - The personal responsibility underlying the integration policy does not work adequately in practice. Most of the people integrating need support at the start of the integration path.
 - Lack of transparency about the courses available on the market prevents participants from selecting the most appropriate integration path. 
-  The quality of the integration courses is not assessed.
-  Under the Civic Integration Act 2013, fewer people pass the integration exam within the statutory term than under the Civic Integration Act 2007. 
-   It is not clear whether or not sanctions are effective. It is almost impossible in practice to enforce the legal sanction of withdrawing the right to residency. 
-  The Civic Integration Act 2013 provides few incentives for dual integration paths and does not provide sufficient encouragement for participants to take exams at the highest feasible level. This may reduce the likelihood of participation in society. 

Result: the Ministry is now designing a new integration system, that will be implemented in 2021. The highlights:
- The minimum level of language examination will be B1, except for people with low learning skills or other obstacles in obtaining the required level. 
- The responsibility for implementation will go back to the municipalities
- A personal integration plan (PIP) will be the basis for more tailored made courses
- More control on quality of provision is needed. 

Let us hope the focus will now be on the quality of provision, quality of teachers and volunteers and a tailormade learning path for every individual immigrant, instead of more and more bureaucratic rules, sanctions and obligations, based on the negative assumption that immigrants do not wish to integrate but have to be forced!   
Graciela Sbertolis bilde
This is really a lot of interesting information you have given us here. Thanks! I will be reading it in detail tomorrow morning and hope to come back with some questions and comments. Will you log in some tine during the day tomorrow to respond? I hope so. Again: many thanks. We really appreciate this Dutch input!
Graciela Sbertolis bilde
I must thank you again for taking the time to write this overview about recent immigration policy in the Netherlands. I see the title is very adequate, dos and don'ts, indeed... This is so interesting as case study that I wonder if we can publish it as a blog and use it in the soon-to-be-published Capacity Building unit on Migrant Integration. Would that be ok for you?

From what I know about the Norwegian system, we are going in the opposite direction. The tendency now is to try to involve the immigrant as soon as possible in working life and social activities, long before they master the language. 

The Personal Integration Plan sounds extremely interesting. Is there any web page where we can find more information about it?
Mustafa Inces bilde
I feel happy that you do  agree with me.Thank you for the link. I will contact the author of the app. for sure. I will share my opinion after I look at the app. I forgot to mention I am now a trainee in National Board of Education of Finland in Helsinki for 2 months. I practice my Finnish language and learn Finnish education system and Finnish work-life.
Graciela Sbertolis bilde
I hope to hear more from you today and tomorrow, Mustafa! You are really a valuable asset for our discussion, being as it were on both sides of the table - a professional teacher and an immigrant trainee. Best of lucks in all your endeavours!
Eva Baloch-Kaloianovs bilde
Hello from EPALE Austria,

happy to join an interesting discussion! 

Concerning the first discussion point: Austria does have a national systems for the language training and certification of immigrants. Recognized refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and third-country nationals have access to subsidized language courses (literacy level courses, elementary A1 / A2 and advanced courses B1). The Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF) of the Republic of Austria offers integration services on a national level, including the above mentioned courses and four test formats for official proof of German language skills, needed to fulfil the so called Integration Agreement (a commitment to acquiring sufficient German language skills within two years). 

 The language portal by ÖIF and Österreich Institute offers a wealth of free online material for learners and teachers of German, including preparation material for language tests. The materials can be used by learners as well as volunteers offering courses for people still waiting for their asylum procedure to be completed. 

Another rich repository is provided by the ESF co-funded MIKA-network (2008 to 2018) for the professionalizing basic education professionals (“basic skills teachers”) in the migration society. The website of this network offers a collection of teaching materials for basic skills courses (in German), with materials for download and online use, DIY materials, audio-files, mobile apps and online dictionaries.

For insight into integration initatives in Europe I recommend our Publication "Sustainable Adult Education in Relation to Immigration and Asylum", based on an EPALE Conference held in 2016, Vienna. The publication contains articles on the following topics:  
  • Integration offers and regional integration policy of North-Rhine Westphalia and Baden-Wuerttemberg (DE), the City of Vienna (AT), the Region of Västra Götaland (SE)
  • Connecting languages - language teaching for migrants and refugees, generally and for professional purposes. 
  • Voluntary work, Adult education of solidarity and tolerance


Graciela Sbertolis bilde
How nice to be able to welcome you to the discussion, Eva! Thank you for a good explanation and for these very interesting links! I am particularly interested in what you mention about the professional development of teachers and trainers. Will have a look immediately and maybe come back with comments and further questions.
Auf wiederlesen :-)