Sociology Mind
2012. Vol.2, No.1, 116-126
Published Online January 2012 in SciRes (
116 Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Newcomers in Educational System: The Case of French-Speaking
Part of Belgium
Altay A. Manço, Patricia Alen
Institut de Recherche, Action et Formation sur les Migrations, Li ege, Belgium
Received July 13th, 2011; revised September 6 th, 2011; accepted November 2nd, 2011
According to the Lisbon strategy for a knowledge society, entering school plays a significant role for any
young immigrant. In Belgium, this issue is very worrying, as equity between native born students and
those of foreign origin seems to be lacking. Finally, the situation in French-speaking Belgium is even
more difficult than in the Flemish part of the country. Also, this paper aims to explore the strategies in
place to welcome and integrate these children. It portrays specific guidance devices for young newcomers
and analyzes possible correlations between them and the rate of academic success. In light of particulari-
ties of the Belgian educational system especially linked to the fact that we are in a federal state with dif-
ferent languages of reference, our study covers the portion of the federal state where French is the official
language. The targeted group is that of newcomers of age to attend secondary school. The method of
analysis and synthesis of available information includes both quantitative and qualitative data. Our ap-
proach was based on the description and analysis of the context of recognition and knowledge acquisition
of young students of foreign origin in secondary education. Our analysis focuses on: accessibility to edu-
cation and equality of success; adequacy to requirements, consistency and efficiency, as well as effec-
tiveness of the education system; the relevance and specific training of teachers adapted to the newcomers;
sustainability of the results: the insertion and future integration of youth; and finally, various linguistic,
social and psychological dimensions, as well as citizenship. The report identifies some key elements of
the context of schooling for young newcomers and offers brief elements of understanding of the history of
immigration in this region. Specific and general practices for integration and schooling of young migrants,
including accompanied or unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, are described. Finally, these elements
are analyzed in terms of accessibility standards to school education, criteria for adequacy of such educa-
tion to the specificity of immigrant children and finally, criteria for system effectiveness, and practical
tracks are proposed.
Keywords: Migrants; Newly Coming Families; Educational System; French-Speaking Part of Belgium;
According to the Lisbon strategy for building a knowledge
society (Rodrigues, 2003), entering school plays a significant
role for any young immigrant in Europe. This is not just global
social integration, but also the acquisition and valuing of accu-
rate knowledge of these young people required as a part of job
search and social mobility. In Belgium, this issue is very wor-
rying as equity between native born students and those of for-
eign origin seems to be lacking. Indeed, the results of the PISA
study (OECD, 2006) show, for example, that school perform-
ances of migrant students are poor throughout Belgium. More
importantly, no other industrialized nation shows as great a gap
between immigrant students and nationals, and the results ob-
tained by these students are among the lowest compared to
other European countries. Finally, the situation in French-
speaking Belgium is even more difficult than in the Flemish
part of the country. Also, this paper aims to explore the strate-
gies in place to welcome and integrate these children. It por-
trays specific guidance devices for young newcomers and ana-
lyzes possible correlations between them and the rate of aca-
demic success.
In light of particularities of the Belgian educational system
especially linked to the fact that we are in a federal state with
different languages of reference, our study covers the French
Community of Belgium (FCB) or French Community Wal-
lonia-Brussels, thus this portion of the federal state where
French is the official language.
The targeted group is that of newcomers of age to attend
secondary school. Officially, this encompasses the 12 to 18-
year-old age group. However, since we wish to take into ac-
count the transitions primary-secondary-school and secondary-
graduate school, this age-frame should be viewed more broadly,
especially as the target group falls far behind in school. Our
study therefore focuses on youth aged 11 to 20 years.
The method of analysis and synthesis of available informa-
tion includes both quantitative and qualitative data. The latter
are the result of a review of French literature on the subject. It
is worth mentioning that hardly any existing document ad-
dresses the whole process. Our approach was based on the de-
scription and analysis of the context of recognition and knowl-
edge acquisition of young students of foreign origin from third-
countries in Belgian French-speaking secondary education. Our
analysis focuses on the following dimensions: accessibility to
education and equality of success; adequacy to requirements,
consistency and efficiency, as well as effectiveness of the edu-
cation system; the relevance and specific training of teachers
adapted to the newcomers; sustainability of the results: the
insertion and future integration of youth; and finally, various
linguistic, social and psychological dimensions, as well as citi-
The report identifies some key elements of the context of
schooling for young newcomers in French-speaking Belgium
and offers brief elements of understanding of the history of
immigration in this region.1 In the following part, specific and
general practices for integration and schooling of young mi-
grants, including accompanied or unaccompanied minor asylum
seekers, are described. Finally, these elements are analyzed in
terms of accessibility standards to school education for young
newcomers, criteria for adequacy of such education to the
specificity of immigrant children and finally, criteria for system
Elements of Context
The School Setting
If under the International Convention on the Rights of the
Child, signed and ratified by Belgium, every child has the right
to education and if primary education is free for all (article 28),
then education is compulsory from age 6 to 18 in Belgium,
regardless of the child’s status. This implies in particular that a
school cannot refuse to register a child in compulsory education,
even if he/she is illegal in Belgium.
In Belgium, education is a regional matter, run in the South
of the country by the French Community and in the North by
the Flemish Community. The compulsory education in the FCB
is organized in two parts: basic education (from age 3 to 12, in
theory) and secondary education (from age 12 to 18, in theory).
Basic education is divided into two main stages: pre-school
and elementary education. At the end of 6th grade, a common
external examination is held in all education networks (public
and catholic schools). Success on this exam will result in the
issuance of a “Certificate of Basic Studies”. However, there is a
pedagogical continuity between primary and secondary educa-
tion. The student who gets his certificate registers in a secon-
dary school of general education. One who fails is oriented
towards “first-degree differential education”. This is for chil-
dren who have not mastered basic skills at the end of primary
school. It offers small class sizes called “reception class”.
For secondary education, there are four mainstreams: 1) gen-
eral education, 2) technical or arts education transition, 3) voca-
tional or artistic education and 4) professional vocational edu-
cation. At the end of a 6 year-vocational education, it is possi-
ble to pursue a seventh year of specialization to get a degree
equivalent to all these sectors in post secondary education and
gain access to higher education.
Besides regular education, there are several other types of
education: “specialized” for children and young disabled and
organized according to 8 types of disabilities; “dual” for youth
15 years and older who wish to combine professional learning
and monitoring of general courses part time. “Social advance-
ment” education offers adults the opportunity to pursue gradu-
ate school. There are also distance learning and the possibility
of graduation before a central board.
Context of Immigration in Belgium
According to the Centre for Equal Opportunities and the
Fight against Racism (2010), migration to Belgium after a lull
during the 70s and 80s, has resumed to reach a historical high
in the mid-2000s: approximately 100,000 people each year
arrive in the Kingdom. About 50% of these people are from
another EU country or another European country or an indus-
trialized country (of North America or South-East Asia, for
example). The rest of the entries are those of nationals of third
countries or countries outside the European Union, often in
developing countries.
These people settled mainly in Brussels and the surrounding
communities and in Flanders (mainly in economically dynamic
cities like Antwerp). Proportionately few newcomers settle in
Wallonia where Liege, Charleroi, Mons and Ottignies are cen-
ters of attraction. The dispatching plan for asylum seekers en-
sures that all municipalities of the Kingdom receive migrants,
even if ultimately they do not necessarily reside there. This
dispatching plan, implemented by the Commissioner General
for Refugees and Stateless Persons, raises questions in many
ways. On the one hand, little is actually done to avoid concen-
tration of families of new immigrants and asylum seekers in
some neighborhoods of large cities. People sent to small rural
areas prefer to join members of their communities in cities
where housing supply is larger. This concentration is problem-
atic especially in terms of “ghettoization” of some schools. On
the other hand, dispatching is almost random and directs fami-
lies to Flanders while they may be partially French speaking.
Impacts on the schooling of children are obvious.
According to the National Register, we can say that in 2010
approximately 40,000 people immigrated in the French Com-
munity and 20,000 of them are from third countries in the de-
veloping world. This figure is repeated annually with a rising
trend (ETNIC, 2010).
Definition of Newcomer
According to the sociological meaning of the term, the new-
comer is an immigrant who recently arrived in the territory of
the host country. Some studies establish the threshold as up to
two years from the date of actual arrival, others speak of a pe-
riod of 5, 6 or even 10 years since arrival (UNISOL, 2006).
Defining the concept is not easy: people newly arrived in Bel-
gium may know the country, speak its languages, whereas peo-
ple who immigrated decades ago can experience exclusion. In a
family, some me mbers may be longstanding or born i n Belgi um,
while others may not be. In the eyes of the educational system,
all of the following conditions have to be fulfilled in order to be
considered legally as a pupil/student newcomer:
Any child at least 2.5 years and less than 18 years;
Entered the country for less than one year;
Granted refugee status;
Or who has submitted an application for recognition of refu-
gee status;
Or being a minor accompanying a recognized refugee or one
who has submitted an application for recognition of refugee
Or being a stateless person or one who has lodged an appli-
cation for recognition;
Or being a citizen of a country regarded as a developing
country or a transitional country.
1For a comparative analysis of the different European countries see http://
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 117
According to data from the Centre for Equal Opportunities
and the Fight against Racism (2010), age at immigration is very
young for many newcomers: 7% are 0 - 6 years (before com-
pulsory education); 5% are 6 - 12 years (primary school age);
4% are 13 - 18 years (high school age); 21% are from 19 to 25
years (beyond compulsory schooling).
Arguably, French-speaking Belgium receives annually 4500
new migrant students in its system of compulsory education.
About half of them (2250) are from a developing country out-
side Europe. How many are French speaking? Certainly very
few, given the fact that even those arriving at a younger age or
born in Belgium of immigrant couples are not competent
enough in French to succeed easily in school.
In 2007, French-speaking Belgium hosted 63,961 foreign
students, of whom more than 51% came from a country outside
the EU. But this does not take into account students who are
naturalized Belgians and disappearing from the statistics are
people of foreign origin, immigrants from 2nd and 3rd genera-
tions who do not fully master written and oral French. In fact,
given the high rate of naturalization of immigrant youth, stu-
dents of foreign origin attending compulsory education in
French-speaking Belgium can be estimated at about 145,000
people, half of which are from “third developing countries”.
Of the 800,000 children and young people of the French
Community subject to compulsory education (6 - 18 years),
18% are persons of immigrant background. Half the population
of immigrants is naturalized Belgian, the other half are foreign-
ers. It is found that less than one percent of the school popula-
tion is in the country for less than a year. Each time, half the
group of young immigrants is from countries outside the Euro-
pean Union and developing countries. Half of this group is boys.
These young people today are from countries increasingly di-
versified, covering the entire globe, representing a significant
change in terms of traditional non-European immigrants to
Belgium who are people from the Maghreb, Turkey and Central
Hosting and Orienting Newcomers in
French-Speaking Belgium
Specific Provisions
Legally, there are several provisions on the reception of new-
comer children in primary and secondary schools of the French
Community. Some of these provisions are qualitative: they
propose a different treatment for these young newcomers from
what is usually expected in a school. However, these devices
involve few children and they are not long-term. Other meas-
ures are quantitative: they can affect each school and thus a
large number of children. But they offer very general programs
that are not necessarily adapted to the specificity of children
newcomers and their needs in terms of education.
The organization of “Bridging Classes” is the main qualita-
tive response of the system to the presence of newly arrived
children (CODE, 2010). This is an “educational structure to
ensure the reception, orientation and integration of newcomer
students in primary or secondary education”. Bridging classes
only relate to children in Belgium for less than a year who are
either: refugees or stateless persons who applied for recognition
of these qualities; minors accompanying a refugee or stateless
person recognized or who applied for recognition of one of
these qualities. In all cases, these children are citizens of a
country considered a developing country or a country in eco-
nomic transition whose list is prepared by the Ministry of For-
eign Affairs. Each child can stay up to one year in a bridging
class. These specific classes are organized at the level of pri-
mary and secondary education, in various ways, depending on
the school. These school locations do not automatically pre-
judge a large presence of newcomers in the neighborhoods
where they operate. On the contrary, in Wallonia, they are cre-
ated in municipalities where a center for asylum seekers is es-
tablished. In terms of content, these classes provide, whenever
possible, an approach to the French language as a foreign lan-
guage to these students (Berg, 2009). Methods and special
teachers are involved. These classes are also meant, in principle,
to facilitate gradual integration and adjustment of these children
to life in Belgium (visits, meetings, discoveries, etc.).
The adjustment of coaching norms for students arrived in
Belgium for less than three years is the main quantitative re-
sponse of the system to the presence of newly arrived children.
Some children may be den ied access to a bridging class because
none exists in the school they attend. Schools therefore benefit
from special coaching standards for children who cannot access
a transitional class despite having that right in theory. Adapta-
tion of coaching standards applies from nursery school: it thus
enshrines a right to education from the age of two and a half,
that is to say, in pre-school. Also, when calculating the ratio of
pupils to teachers in nursery education, a migrant child can
count as 1.5 during the three years that this level of education
has. In primary education, a migrant student can count ficti-
tiously triple the first two years and double the third. A similar
system also exists for secondary education. However, school
principals testify that one must be determined to have a child
recognized as a “newcomer student”. Administrative denials are
not uncommon (Hendrickx, 2004, 2009). The forms to fill out
are large and many parents have difficulties in cooperating with
the school for various reasons (fear for their status, lack of lan-
guage or system understanding, missing documents for the
child and so on).
Organizing and adapting courses to the language of instruc-
tion (ALE—Adaptation à la Langue de l’Enseignement) are an
other type of provisions: additional teaching periods are granted
by the French Community to schools that accept child new-
comers meeting certain conditions, in proportion to their num-
bers. Indeed, ALE courses aiming at the integration of students
in the school system and the acquisition of French can be ar-
ranged 3 times a week for the benefit of:
Stateless students, students of foreign nationality or adopted
people who meet the following conditions:
1) Their mother tongue is different from the language of in-
2) They have attended primary school organized in the
French Community for less than three full years and do not
know enough about the language of instruction to successfully
adapt to the activities of their class;
3) One of the two parents (or persons to the custody of which
they are assigned) does not have Belgian nationality, except in
the case of adopt ion.
Belgian students satisfying conditions 1 and 2 and whose
one parent at least is a foreign national or has acquired Bel-
gian nationality for less than 3 years.
The same limitations as above can be found for the other
qualitative measures. Besides, the special teachers in French
“foreign or second language” (FLES) are not numerous, and
118 Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
neither are the programs to train them that date back to the early
2000s. On top of that, their status is not always recognized and
they sometimes lack educational tools (Marrisal, 2004; Marave-
laki, 2005; Manço & Vaes Harou, 2008).
Other Devices and Initiatives
System-Level Education in the FCB
In the French Community, school policy is officially based
on a philosophy of social equality with the aim of bridging the
socio-economic differences between students. In this context,
the educational system designs devices to enhance equal op-
portunities between young people.
The device “positive discrimination” is the most important
example. The device known as “D+” is introduced in compul-
sory education by the decree of June 30, 1998 to ensure all
students equal opportunities for social emancipation, including
the implementation of affirmative action. It replaces other older
devices such as “Education Priority Zones” inspired from
France. Its principle is to “give more to those who have less”.
In this case, it grants additional resources to schools with stu-
dents coming from the most vulnerable environments, such as
some groups of migrant students. The device applies only to
mainstream education at primary and secondary levels in all
education networks: public (communities, provinces, cities and
towns) and private (denominational or non-denominational).
The rules for implementing the decree state that the Govern-
ment establishes two lists of locations called “positive dis-
crimination”, one list for basic education and one for secondary
education. These locations may be awarded two types of addi-
tional resources: human resources in the form of capital-time or
periods-teachers; operating resources in the form of grants or
subsidies. Unfortunately, this device does not address directly
the origin or the nationality of the students. The distinction of
positive discrimination takes place “on the basis of social, eco-
nomic and educational criteria”, but does not take into account
cultural and linguistic needs of students (for example the fact
that French is not their native language) or the nature of their
migration path (uprooting, trauma of precipitation in an un-
known environment, etc.).
The First Degree “Differentiated”: there are also, since Sep-
tember 2008, at the beginning of secondary education, the
classes of first-degree differential. These are classes “prepara-
tory” to the second stage of secondary education for students who
have not acquired the basic certification of the primary education.
The students are offered a differentiated study cou rs e us in g f le xi -
ble schedules.
All migrant chil dr en cann ot be supp ort ed by the devi ce br idg ing
classes for many reasons. The singular init iatives of schools and
teachers are to be considered. In the Brussels area, for example,
the presence of newly arrived pupils has grown to such an ex-
tent that there is a severe lack of places. Many schools have set
up literacy courses and intensive French such as the Technical
Institute R. Cartigny. The school does not have bridging classes
but provides an opportunity for a dozen student volunteers to
work learning techniques of FLE (French as Foreign Language)
after school. This system allows students who do not necessar-
ily meet the criteria of the Government to still benefit from
specific training. Manço and Harou (2008) also showed that
teachers used to having to teach to the non-French-speaking
adapt and tinker for themselves their own approaches and
methods at their level with great commitment and generosity.
Unfortunately, they receive little human or material support
from education authorities and their experiences are nowhere
capitalized. The French community lacks a resource or exper-
tise center in this area.
Note finally, cross-cultural initiatives that are implemented in
some schools and courses in language and culture of origin
provided to some children in primary and secondary as well as
pre-school. These courses are jointly organized in collaboration
with the Ministries of Education of the country of origin in
parallel with the Belgium education system. This is a partner-
ship program between the French Community of Belgium and
seven other countries (Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Turkey,
Portugal and Romania) on the language and culture of the
country of origin and an intercultural approach to teaching.
Other countries like China will soon be integrated into the pro-
gram. Nearly 180 schools participate in the program “Language
and Culture of origin” (LCO). A number of newly arrived chil-
dren are involved, from Morocco and Latin countries.2 Unfor-
tunately, LCO is largely limited to basic education: very few
schools organize it in pre-school and it remains exceptional in
secondary education. Without being specific to newcomers,
language and culture of origin courses may, in some cases, also
relate to and complement their reception by the understanding,
for example, they can generate on their path of migration.
However, it is difficult for children of refugee families to par-
ticipate in courses provided by the Government of the country
they fled.
Extracurricular Support
Homework schools and other organizations dedicated to
youth are present locally in extracurricular activity coaching.
According to the law that organizes them, four missions are
assigned to homework schools, which are loc a l a ss o ci a ti on s :
1) Intellectual development of children by supporting educa-
tion, helping with homework and school mediation;
2) Development of social emancipation of the child by an in-
tercultural focus on solidarity and respect for differences;
3) Child’s creativity by educating the various dimensions of
4) Citizenship and participating in civic life.
These initiatives should also be implemented in certain loca-
tions determined on the basis of objective criteria, trying to
highlight the places heavily affected by job insecurity, school
dropout rate and bad housing conditions as well as the presence
of population of foreign origin outside the European Union
between age 6 to 25. These locations called “Zones d’Actions
Prioritaires” (ZAP) therefore take into account the origin as a
criterion in defining the places receiving aid, which is not the
case for positive discrimination at school.
Gradually, these actions begin to be thought of in a context
of integrated control against the phenomena of discrimination
against young people of foreign origin. Thus, there are plans for
social integration in Wallonia as well as in Brussels, which try
to coordinate these scattered actions. “Transversal policies and
practices” is a catchword of the moment. Also, even if they are
not part of the education sector itself, homework schools
closely affect the issues regarding newcomers and their school-
ing (Sacco & Rea, 2006). Thus, local associations for assistance
2“Thereis work on the original language but also learning French, says
Jamila Zeroual, a Moroccan LCO-teacher, the objective of these projects is
to expose kids to cultural differences, but also to promote the integration o
these children, even those born in Belgium”.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 119
and, especially, homework schools can reinforce the work of
teachers by allowing newcomer students more individualized
coaching. Finally, homework school helps to maintain ties with
parents who often have few or no contact with the school. In
this context, coordination of school and homework school is
Other support structures for youth such as “Action in Open
Environment”, in French “Action en Milieu Ouvert” (AMO) or
Youth Centers, community centers, centers of expression and
creativity, etc. are not left behind in terms of support for young
newcomers. These vital aids are not excessive when you think
that families need stakeholders who can introduce them to in-
stitutions, languages and school systems in Belgium (Manço,
Petit, & Born, 2008).
Unaccompanied Foreign Minors and Young Asylum
Seekers: A Particular Issue
If there is the responsibility of the signatory states to the Ge-
neva Convention of 1951 to accommodate asylum seekers and
discuss their applications, specialized services are faced with
the management of foreign minors defined as unaccompanied
foreign minors (MENA = Mineurs Etrangers Non Accom-
By law, a MENA is “any person under eighteen years, unac-
companied by an adult exercising parental authority or guardi-
anship under the national law of the minor, a citizen of a coun-
try outside the European Economic Area and in one of the fol-
lowing situations: have applied for recognition as refugees, do
not meet the conditions of access to land and stay determined
by law”.3
At the expiration of the statutory period of two times 15 days
from the request for recognition of refugee status, during which
the youth is welcomed into a temporary shelter in the Brussels
region, FEDASIL, the Federal Agency for the Reception of
Asylum Seekers, directs the minor to one of the following spe-
cialized structures for unaccompanied minors run by itself or its
partners: Belgian Red Cross centers or local host structures, in
French “Initiatives Locale d’Accueil” (ILA), under the auspices
of the Municipal Public Centers for Social Assistance (Centres
Public d’Action Sociale or CPAS).
There are seven federal host centers, three Red Cross centers
and 12 local host structures providing a suitable home for
MENA. The young people are separated from adults, housed in
units for girls or for boys and receive appropriate supervision.
They stay in an independent group living with their own team
of supervisors and educators. Each youth is also assigned a
guardian who helps him find a lawyer to apply for asylum or to
find a suitable school. Heads of centers or judges often serve as
tutors for these young people and are therefore responsible for
monitoring them. But there are other tutors and an association
brings them together.
The children of asylum seekers and their parents, housed in
the similar types of structures, are also face problems of educa-
tion. The directors of the shelters are talking about a lukewarm
welcome of these children into schools in Belgian villages
where refugee centers are (Manço & Vaes Harou, 2008). They
are accused of lowering the “level”. It is not uncommon, ac-
cording to these witnesses, that these children should be
“parked” all in the same class. FEDASIL as well as the Red
Cross and the federation of CPAS have developed small teams
specialized in advising teachers and educational structure deal-
ing with children of asylum seekers.
Recognition and Knowledge Acquisition of
Young Newcomers
The newly-arrived children and their families are directly af-
fected by a number of policies, and by laws and regulations
arising from these policies. These include policies for foreign-
ers and asylum seekers, children of asylum seekers, education
and family policies, and health and welfare policies. Each of
them is developed within a framework of its own.
In Belgium, the situation becomes more complex because we
are a federal state comprising different levels of government,
each with special competences. For example, immigration (pro-
cessing requests for asylum and residence permits) is a federal
responsibility, while education is a Community competence.
Reception and integration are regional matters. The municipali-
ties also play their role as intermediaries and service providers.
This has implications for the consistency and smoothness of the
educational experience of young newcomers.
So, overall, we see that the education of children is not a pri-
ority in the handling of cases of newcomers. One can meet a
series of breaks in the education of children even after their
arrival in Belgium. For example, choosing a shelter by the Im-
migration Department does not take into account the previous
studies of children, including the languages in which they have
already been enrolled. Then, a family may have to leave the
shelter in the current school year. Most often, it changes the
city and children change school and sometimes languages of
instruction in the middle of a school year. Thus, children who
have been educated partly in French in a foreign country are
sometimes sent to a shelter in Flanders and are enrolled in
Dutch, which does not facilitate their adjustment to school and
their schooling. Similarly, expulsions from the territory also
occur during the school year. In all these cases, education of
children is jeopardized by ruptures that could be prevented if
we took more account of the interests of the child and its pre-
vious school career as well as the school calendar.
Accessibility Standards and Equal Opportunities: Are
Principles Effectively Implemented?
In the French Community schools, the establishment of spe-
cial programs for all children, whatever their legal status, has
many positive impacts. Based on observations of field profes-
sionals (UNISOL, 2006), the vast majority of children of mi-
grant entrants are enrolled, even if they are undocumented.
Going beyond compulsory education from age six to eighteen,
the programs recognize the importance of a pre-school educa-
tion. Children are often educated as early as two and a half
years old. It seems well established that education and school
respond to a right start from an early age.
However, the implementation of specific programs encoun-
ters many difficulties. The regulatory systems are effectively
planned, but their implementation requires a significant invest-
ment on the part of teaching teams to ensure that children bene-
fit the most. This has the consequence that some schools refuse
to enroll children in an illegal situation. Indeed, principals must
report newly arrived migrant children after gathering the evi-
dence to prove that the child is in the territory for less than a
3Title XIII, chapter 6 of the law “Tutelle des mineurs étrangers non accom-
pagnés” (2 4 December 2002).
120 Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
year by an official document or written evidence justifying the
date of entry into Belgium. The auditors sometimes seem very
picky in this area, which can lead to a significant difference
between the number of children actually affected and those
whose application is accepted. Moreover, it is difficult to in-
clude older adolescents (17 - 18 years). Once they are 18, they
no longer benefit from compulsory schooling and are no longer
protected by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Addi-
tionally, students over 18 years cannot be enrolled in bridging
classes, even if they could not complete their schooling in their
country of origin. It is difficult to find a school and almost im-
possible if they are illegal. In addition, children without legal
residence are not included in the calculation of the grant of
regular schools during the first three months of attendance in
school. This, in effect, penalizes schools most often more than
three months since we must wait for the next countdown (the
counts are done on a fixed date) so that the situation is cor-
Analysis of the decree “positive discrimination” made by the
Free University of Brussels (ULB, 2008) indicates a lack of
political will to enhance accessibility of the school to students
of foreign origin. Indeed, the terms immigrant, immigration,
ethnicity, nationality, origin, foreign, multiculturalism and in-
terculturalism appear nowhere in the decree. The term new-
comer is mentioned regarding the socio-economic index to be
given to this type of student. The decree on bridging classes for
newcomers does address this issue, but involves an extremely
small audience. This lack of overall vision of the French Com-
munity policies regarding the populations of foreign nationality
opposes the very idea of positive discrimination meant to pro-
mote opportunities for social emancipation for all students. If a
revision of the decree “bridging classes” providing improve-
ments is ongoing, analysis of association claims and various
testimonies (schools, students, etc.) shows that this remains
below expectations, and that accessibility of the device is not
equal for all (Vallet, 2010).
The definition of newcomer has a nationality requirement.
Currently, youth who come from countries that are not consid-
ered as developing countries by the OECD do not have access
to transitional classes. Many children in disadvantaged socio-
school situations, from Europe (Eastern Europe, the Balkans,
Turkey, Asia and South America), cannot benefit from the de-
vice.3 Some children arrived in the territory under family reuni-
fication or raised in a mother tongue other than French, but with
Belgian nationality, are not affected by the various devices.
Another stumbling block: the definition of newcomer ex-
cludes candidates to bridging classes who spent a year in Bel-
gium. This poses particular problems for children who arrive in
the French Community after residing one year in Flanders or in
the German-speaking part of the country. In addition, children
cannot benefit from the device over a year. Some newly arrived
pupils are accommodated in bridging classes for a period rang-
ing from one week to six months, during which they have a
specific framework enabling them to adapt and integrate into
the socio-cultural and educational Belgian system. They can
then be directed to education that suits them best. Now this
time is insufficient to integrate into the Belgian school system,
especially for illiterate students and those who suffer from spe-
cific difficulties: for example, at the Horta school in Brussels,
“the illiterate represent 10% of our newcomer students who
must also be supported by the school. We do not have the
means”. In Quebec (Hendrickx, 2004), research has shown that
it takes an experience of about a year and a half to ensure that
children not attending school integrate into the school system
(which includes several levels of learning, including learning
French). Francization requires 5 years to reach a “native” level.
The limited number and location of bridging classes raises
numerous questions. For primary education, there are 14
schools in Wallonia and 18 in Brussels. For secondary educa-
tion, 16 schools in Brussels and 13 in Wallonia offer one or
more such classes (school year 2010-2011). These classes are
necessarily open in schools close to the refugee reception cen-
ters. These centers are often outside major cities. For example,
in secondary education, a school is located in Liege, one in
Charleroi and two of them in Namur. The 9 other schools are in
small, even very small towns. No reception class is offered in
elementary schools in the Walloon cities. Clearly, the device
fails to take into account the non-asylum seeker newcomers or
rejected asylum applicants or asylum seekers who do not stay in
centers provided for them.4
The organization of classes and orientation: the number of
students per class is not limited. This can be counterproductive
when it is known that some classes have up to more than 40
students. This number should be limited to fifteen children.
Moreover, if the existence of the jury of integration is particu-
larly beneficial because it assigns a grade level in the absence
of academic record and can guide young people to the end of
the transitional class, it also has his flaws. Thus, a study
showed that, overall, student skills are undervalued (Manço &
Vaes Harou, 2008). Minors who follow a different procedure
are excluded and must absolutely be able to produce a school
record (certificate of registration) to request an equivalence in
the Ministry (procedure handled by the school). In the case of
“undocumented” young people, whose age is estimated medi-
cally, they are automatically directed to a sort of preparatory
year opening to secondary vocational school, or to third grade
vocational. This school guidance imposed on students newly
arrived on the basis of a medical test whose reliability has been
questioned by many studies (possibility of errors of up to two
years, including through bone tests) raises the questions of dis-
crimination and of equality of opportunity.
Adequacy of the Education System to Newly Arrived
Pupils and Consistency of the Programs
Findings in Relation to Young People
As noted, children who have been educated partly in French
are sometimes sent to a reception center in Flanders. The choice
of the language area conducted by the Immigration Office at the
time of application for asylum families does not appear to take
account of the educational experience of children. This reflects
the fact that the policies and regulations at the federal level are
still not consistent with other practices, for example at the
4Currently, the decree provides that children under 18 cannot integrate
bridging class unless they come from an underdeveloped country whose
official list was published. This effectively eliminates all students belonging
to the European Union, particularly the Portuguese and Spaniards who
represent a large community in Saint-Gilles. The immediate future chal-
lenges our educational community and raises a number of concerns. Indeed,
it is important to note that in 2004, ten new countries will join the Euro
Union and especially Poland. In our classes of newcomers more than 30%
are Polish. It’s obvious to me that this is blatant discrimination” (An official
of the Athénée RoyalVictor Horta, a secondary school with a basic section.
These junior high and high school count 620 students including 103 new-
comer migrant children, the elementary hosts 40 for a total population o
360 children).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 121
community level. Children’s schooling is not a priority in the
administrative processing of the social and legal records of
newcomers, and at school, the intercultural dimension doesn’t
seem to be much taken into consideration, if not by the initia-
tive of some teachers (Manço & Vaes Harou, 2008). Collective
initiatives are rare. Yet, academic standards that ignore the
diversity lead a significant number of students to construct a
relational space-time outside of school, in a no man’s land in
which markers such as language may be lost.
If the teenager does not master French and knows no English,
a translator is present at his arrival to help make presentations
and site visits. This translator can be from outside the school or
a student of the same nationality as the newcomer or another
teacher. However, in many cases, the non French-speaking
student is directly immersed in his new class. The student and
teacher are at a loss, without any prior information on each
other. The presence of translators is not always guaranteed and
monitoring by a lo v ed one is not always obvious.5
Some young newcomers are in psychological distress on ar-
rival in Belgium. This is explained by the difficulties encoun-
tered in their journey of exile (trauma, violence, war), but also
by the unstable situation due to cumbersome administrative
procedures, and the uprooting and leaving of family. All these
sources of stress impact on schooling. They need psychological
assistance, but it is not provided. According to a head teacher of
the grammar school of Saint-Gilles (Brussels): “95% of newly
arrived immigrant pupils didn’t ask to leave and come to Bel-
Currently, many teachers are neither prepared nor trained to
confront audiences so diverse and fragile except in transitional
class where the teaching method proposed is an active teaching
communication. This approach gives the learner a central place
(Marissal, 2004): “We must encouraged speaking and ex-
changing, but also group dynamics through presentations, role-
plays or other activities. Even more than in an ‘ordinary’ class,
the training group occupies a prominent place. This is why
professionals encourage cooperative games to build trust be-
tween different children”. In fact, we know that these schools
are few and cover only a portion of the needs: quarantine bridg-
ing classes throughout the country receive less than 1500
youngsters, while the needs are much higher.
The lack of resources and experience should call forth more
adequacy and support between schools and external support
structures such as homework school or migrant associations.
However, the opposite seems to happen. Few extracurricular
structures are adapted for teenage migrant newcomers. Home-
work Schools often compensate for the lack of support struc-
tures within schools. In these structures, foreign children are
mixed with Natives, but enjoy moments of animation that are
reserved for them. We are also witnessing the emergence of
homework schools only for the newcomers. As an example,
let’s mention an association for training in continuing education
and professional integration, which also offers a homework
school for newcomers aged 12 to 18. However, these initiatives
are not numerous at the secondary level. As for the French
courses offered outside school, they are mainly for adults and
are conducted during children’s school hours.
Moreover, the taking into consideration of the needs or
MENA point out another issue on the adaptation of supply to
specific target groups. Several refugee shelters develop an ap-
proach focused on the needs of MENA. Some results are en-
couraging. For example, responsible stakeholders for the
MENA at the FEDASIL Centre in Florennes are positive. Not
only is the rate of absenteeism low, but progress is substantial,
particularly in French. Adolescents are aware of the importance
that a good education can have on their future. School fees and
equipment (often second hand) are supported by the center.
However, most unaccompanied minors complain about the look
that other students give them when they arrive at school: “It is
heavy, especially because of their equipment and clothes (often
old, faded, stained, or sometimes with holes). These stigmas
betray their origin from a shelter. At the refugee center library
in Florennes, three educators are present in the evening to pro-
vide follow-up school to MENA. The center of Florennes al-
lows two schools to open bridging classes: the Athénée (gram-
mar school) in Florennes (primary and secondary level), located
in the village as well as the Technical Institute of Namur (sec-
ondary level), located more than one hour by bus from Floren-
nes. However, the Technical Institute of Namur (ITN) has risen
to the challenge of hosting MENA students with enthusiasm.
Since 2001, it also organizes a ‘bridging class’, whose program
and management are modulated by the number, origin and level
of children in French” (Manço & Vaes Harou, 2008).
Findings in Relation to Parents
Evidence suggests that the ethnic diversity of school popula-
tions has led to the dilution of contact with parents in many
schools. According to a report of the King Baudouin Founda-
tion on The relationship between families and schools (2005),
schools justify this by differences in language and culture be-
tween parents and teachers. It is true that in such a context,
programs and traditional exchanges of information are not
enough. The traditional parent teacher conference is less at-
tended and written pieces of information do not produce the
desired effect. Some parent groups are not easily reachable by
the school. Others are in situations of irregularity or precari-
ousness. This sometimes creates a sense of fear: to go to the
school means to them to go to a public institution, a public
authority with all the symbolism attached to it. Some schools,
however, blame the parents for a certain disinterest in school
matters. Asylum seekers, persons engaged in integration diffi-
culties in a new country, poorly informed about the school, may
have other priorities and fear of facing the school. They cannot
invest the required time and effort to establish a good relation-
ship with teachers. Structures more flexible than schools,
homework schools facilitate families/schools exchanges. Ac-
cording to Manço, Petit, & Born (2006), homework school is
seen as a nearby neutral venue where parents can feel more at
ease. Most important contacts between homework school and
5The testimony below illustrates the lack of bridging classes and the numer-
ous administrative difficulties that newcomer children face. A 16-year-
oldgirl lives with her aunt in the region of Charleroi. She is seeking asylum.
She wants to enroll in general secondary education. We go to the Secondary
School of Marchienne-au-Pont (the social worker who followed the family
had advised us) where we have an appointment with the school principal.
We are very well received. At the time of registration, the head master tells
us that he can only enroll Mariama in first grade because she has no docu-
ments pro ving that she has been educat ed in her co untry of o rigin. We l eave
vexed. I am inquiring... it appears that there is no bridging class in that
grammar school. The school where there is one is located several miles
away whereas Mariama must pay for her own commute expenses. Fortu-
nately for Mariama, it all ended well: I could contact her former school
principal in Guinea and he sent us very quickly all her academic record. She
was eventual ly placed in f ourth grade.” (Ev idence from A. T. F Newsletter,
February 2011).
122 Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
the school would allow it to interact with these parents, often
forgotten by the school s ystem.
Findings in Relation to Teachers
Observation of the system allows the question of the consis-
tency of devices: some studies show that teachers who produce
extraordinary work with newly arrived children, often not
speaking French, are not recognized for these specific skills
(Maravelaki, 2004; Manço & Vaes Harou, 2008). In addition,
the system is such that the bridging classes are formed early in
the school year by staff, which prevents continuity and carries
the risk of demotivation in teachers, besides the loss of experi-
ence. Teachers cannot be tenured for such classes and many of
them leave these structures, at least hoping to be appointed
elsewhere. Yet many engage in specific training (FLE, inter-
cultural education, further university degrees), although these
efforts are not reflected in their salary. Transitional class teach-
ers are expressing their frustration at the lack of recognition by
the school (by their peers, administration, etc.) for their efforts.
Moreover, the courses organized in French “foreign language”
are not subject to any specific program. In practice, the organi-
zation of classes for illiterate students, FLE, non French-
speaking newcomers, is left to the faculty and gives very varied
adaptations. This also makes them more difficult to assess in
terms of teaching. There is a lack of specific material (exercise
books and theory, common database between the schools, in-
formation about training).
School structures are often inadequate to support teachers
dealing with this specific audience, causing a feeling of worth-
lessness. Among examples of mismatch, we find the lack of
specific training adapted to teachers’ needs. Besides the fact
that they do not benefit from training to learning “French as a
Foreign Language”, they have not trained to teach to a diverse
and vulnerable audience and face a diversity of backgrounds,
native languages and cultures. Also, they must deal with the
heterogeneity of a group that includes various levels of aca-
demic competence. The strong heterogeneity of the classes of
newcomers makes it difficult for the teacher to manage groups
and often leaves a large part to volunteering. Moreover, since
the arrival of families in the area and enrolling children in
schools occur throughout the year, this leads to management
difficulties in terms of educational support.
Several studies (Marissal, 2004) show that the problem of
violence and tension is not so present in basic education but
that it may arise the secondary education. Let’s point out the
issue of managing conflict among children from communities
in conflict (e.g., Russia, Chechnya, ...).
The case of MENA seems to offer a more coherent approach.
In Namur, mentor teachers for this audience have taken addi-
tional training specific to teaching French as a Foreign Lan-
guage and as a second language in specialized organizations
and universities. Mathematics, technology and science are
taught by specialist teachers, tailored to non-francophone stu-
dents in two levels of complexity. There are also meetings in-
volving various groups of newcomers, and all professors of the
transitional class. They are held weekly for two hours to social-
ize young people and professionals to discuss problems, etc
(Manço & Vaes Harou).
What reading does the teaching staff have of these situations?
The teachers interviewed by Maravelaki (2004) highlight sev-
eral problems relating to their function:
They believe that there is a lack of coordination between
bridging class teachers, but also between teachers in main-
stream education.
Collaboration between institutions is deemed necessary, as
well as with other actors such as psychologists, services or
hooking up with extracurricular activities to develop the in-
tegration of young newcomers and work on problems re-
lated to their recent arrival in Belgium (for example: up-
rooting, poverty, psychological and emotional problems).
Some regret the lack of specific learning programs in
bridging classes leading to a lack of method, even if the
transitional class teachers are very motivated. They find it
difficult to establish a systematic approach to teaching and
nurturing student learning. Often, they use a traditional ap-
proach emphasizing teaching grammar and vocabulary,
without valuing writing. The methods of teaching French as
a foreign language are not widespread; the available docu-
ments generally apply to adults and not to school audiences.
The material used to teach French in schools abroad is not
suitable either.
Teachers point to a lack of proper assessment of learning
for young immigrants.
In fact, we note that the supply of initial training in terms of
school support for newly arrived children is totally inadequate,
even nonexistent. The few experiences are very late. In continued
training, little is provided for teachers in bridging classes, except
conferences. Moreover, skills seem to be lacking: most teachers
have not received specific training in teaching French as a second
language, nor in pedagogy and intercultural communication. In
addition, psychological and educational problems posed by
newly arrived pupils still require other skill s. According to teach-
ers, extra-curricular support centers named “Centres Médico-
Psycho-Sociaux” (PMS) get involved only when a problem is
referred to them. The survey conducted with students from the
University of Liege (Manço & Vaes Harou) failed to highlight
preventive measures: there is no specific assistance upon arrival
in the school of a newcomer student. The PMS cou ld yet serve as
a link between teachers and newly arrived students, but it seems
that this is not usually the case. These teams are also over-
whelmed and unprepared for this specific issue.
The Newcomers: An Audience That Confronts
the Language, Socio-Educational and Civic Barr ier s of Our
Educational Systems
According to many testimonies, we see that faced with the
complex problems presented by newcomer students, the tasks
of social integration and citizenship education supposedly de-
volved to schools are left to outside structures such as home-
work school and other associations. Yet, many young immi-
grant lack benchmarks and support for their cultural education,
sport and citizenship. What is, indeed, the usefulness of the
presence of children in certain courses if they do not understand
what is said? It is important that these children receive individ-
ual support in their efforts to socialize in their new country.
Places of informal education such as youth facilities and sports
clubs can provide excellent socialization areas and locations to
practice the French language and strengthen their self-esteem.
This applies also to more creative courses, outdoor activities
(visits, etc.) and, of course, structures promoting creativity and
expression. Partnerships between these organizations and schools,
usually desirable, become strategic in regard to newcomers.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 123
Performance Criteria of the School System and Newly
Arrived Students’ Achievement: Equality in School
Success and Access to General and Higher Education
Understanding these issues requires establishing an inventory
at a global level, including on issues of comparison. The grade
repetition rate in French-speaking Belgium is 4.5% in primary
school and 14% in secondary school. Grade repetition causes a
lag in the education of youth. The rate of educational back-
wardness is not distributed equitably across all categories. Ac-
cording to data from the French Community (ETNIC, 2010) the
rate of late students is over 20% at the end of primary school.
This rate is 30% in the first grades of secondary school, except
in the vocational classes, where the rate exceeds 70%! Towards
the end of secondary schooling, there is a concentration of stu-
dents of foreign origin (over 50%) and students with learning
delay (90%) in the same vocational sections. It is noted that
almost all teens that have completed general secondary educa-
tion go on to higher education. This rate is only 9% (females)
and 16% (boys) for students in vocational education, although
these rates have increased over the previous decade.
One can see that orientation towards general or vocational
education is socially determined and contributes to the repro-
duction of social inequality in relation to the training of young
people: data from the French Community (ETNIC, 2010) show
that students in general education are overwhelmingly from
neighborhoods with a wealthy socioeconomic profile and those
in vocational schools are from districts with a precarious profile.
Immigrants are widely installed in these neighborhoods. More-
over, the PISA study (OECD, 2006) on math skills, analyzed in
the case of Belgium by the staff of the ULB (Jacobs et al.,
2007), gives precise information on the quality of education of
young immigrants or of immigrants in comparison with native
students. According to the study, where native students (French-
speaking Belgians) in the 3rd year of high school get 100 points
in a standardized test of math skills, students of the second
generation (young people born in Belgium to parents born
abroad) get 89 points, and immigrant youth (young people born
abroad, including newcomers) get 80 points, 20% less. The
tests in reading, in terms of comprehension, science and prob-
lem solving confirm these observations. The inequality between
natives and immigrants is seen at several levels:
Among the foreigners, the Turks, the Maghreb and sub-
Saharan Africans have more difficulty than other foreigners
Young people who immigrated before age 6 (at the begin-
ning of compulsory education) have less difficulty than oth-
In mathematics, the immigrant girls have more difficulty
than boys;
Young people whose parents are immigrants with little
education and no skilled jobs encounter more difficulties
than others, but in all cases, immigrants have more diffi-
culty than young people of the second generation and na-
Young people whose parents use the language of instruction
at home have fewer problems than other immigrants;
Young people in Flanders have fewer problems than youth
in the French Community in all categories;
Finally, immigrant youth attending vocational schools have
more difficulty than others in the same category.
These results identify, first, an effect related to the stream-
lining of our teaching system, reserving vocational classes to
inner-city youth (with a strong immigrant presence). Secondly,
the results suggest an effect of the system related to the lan-
guage of instruction. This is not the native language of most
immigrant children and students of foreign origin. Acting as if
it were promotes inequality for immigrants. Indeed it appears
that the worst results are obtained on the reading test. Finally,
note that there are no further findings on the education of im-
migrant children in Belgium. The French Community does not
publish them, notwithstanding the difficulty of the task. We see
further evidence of the political indolence about the diversity
represented by children of diverse backgrounds in our schools.
If we do not face up to the educational challenges posed by this
diversity, we will only worsen the already existing inequality.
Summary of the Findings and International Overview
The educational situation of second generation and migrant
children in Belgium remains problematic. Differences in achi-
evement between natives and migrants are important, even for
children of the second generation. Although not essentially
different from that of disadvantaged children in Belgium, the
situation with regard to school of children from the recent
waves of immigration in Belgium is of concern because the
situations of failure are especially acute and subjected to more
tension of a cultural type. Yet school integration is probably the
factor that determines the most the different forms of social and
economic integration. It is measured by the quality, quantity
and content of the studies followed, as well as by success in
them. The crowning of studies by the required qualifications,
the low number of wasted years, the choice of valued directions
and the high level of skills reached by the end of training are
the criteria for quality integration. Added to this, of course, is
the opportunity for youth to occupy and secure meaningful
employment in their chosen vocation.
While the hosting programs for newly arrived migrant chil-
dren has been studied repeatedly, little analysis and data exist
regarding the success rates of these youth. When these data
exist, they focus more specifically on the notions of perform-
ance as shown by the analysis of the results of the PISA study.
This indicates that the achievement of pupils of foreign origin is
poor throughout Belgium. In fact, no other industrialized nation
displays as great a gap between students from immigrant fami-
lies and others, and the results obtained by students of foreign
origin are among the lowest in developed countries, despite the
high rate of naturalized children compared to Germany, Lux-
embourg or Switzerland. The two communities in Belgium—
and especially the French community—must undertake consid-
erable efforts to democratize the education system, which cur-
rently does not promote social mobility. Desegregation policies
should play an important role even if they are not sufficient to
reduce social inequal ities in the education system.
Beyond these indications of performance, quantitative and
qualitative data on the success rate, integration or effective
orientation are rare. However, the studies reviewed allow us to
identify the following findings:
Students often have difficulties in written language.
Submitted to this schooling poorly adapted to their situation,
migrant children often fail and are relegated to vocational
classes. These classes are little valued in Belgium for not
opening to higher education.
We note that teenagers often find themselves in vocational
124 Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
sections or reception classes, because the level is less de-
manding and it gives them more time to learn French. But
these guidelines often do not take account of the children’s
actual skills and the expectations of their families about
school counseling.
The prospect of a bridge toward general education, although
announced, seems not to exist. According to teachers, a re-
orientation to “general” education is rarely considered be-
cause the level of these students in French is too low or
their educational backwardness too high. Thus, unless a
very strong motivation to hard work exists, these students
often find themselves “trapped” in sectors that do not al-
ways match their abilities or intentions and their earlier
The responsible stakeholders for MENA seem to have a
positive outlook regarding the education of youth. In all
cases, young newcomers develop a certain command of
French and some awareness of the importance that a good
education can have for their future.
Conclusion and Practical Tracks
Increasing socio-cultural diversity and equity within the
education system are both necessary and urgent objectives in
Belgium. Indeed, the results of the PISA survey show a wide
disparity between native students (French and Flemish) and
immigrants of the first and of the second generation. For exam-
ple, the average Belgian students in reading (but also in
mathematics) is more advanced (about two school years), com-
pared with the average score for non-European migrant students
enrolled in the country. Apart from the PISA study, there are
very few evaluations available on the issue of inclusion and
integration (professional and social) of newcomers in the CFB
in terms of sustainability. But without this, it is difficult to
identify indicators corresponding to the dimensions of effec-
tiveness, efficiency, success, or even citizenship. In addition,
the teaching and learning proposals mentioned are rarely as-
sessed in the short and long term. Similarly, the effects of the
long-term action-research are not checked to generalize their
teaching practices (Crutzen & Lucchini, 2007).
However, there is a plethora of reports and articles providing
an analysis of relevant devices for receiving newcomers as such,
mainly that of the bridging class. If it deserves to exist, the
system as it is today has many shortcomings and all profession-
als agree that it is urgent to change it. The synthesis of their
views allowed us to identify indicators relating to dimensions
of equal opportunity and accessibility, consistency and ade-
quacy of practices to the needs of young people, teachers and
parents and finally, to a lesser extent, the relevance of teaching
staff who work there now. Despite the limitations outlined, we
could provide a synopsis of the findings and indicators. It is
based on key elements of it that we are trying to make tracks
and recommendations to optimize the educational integration of
newcomers. We group them into three main groups: accessibil-
ity criteria to structures and equal opportunities, consistency of
the devices and, finally, relevance of the education system.
Firstly, if we want to reduce discrimination, the admission
criteria should be reviewed to allow more children to benefit
from an adapted coaching and optimize their chances of inte-
gration. Moreover, learning French should be allowed to con-
tinue beyond the transitional class. Indeed, all newcomer pupils
have different courses of study and levels of schooling: some
have never been literate, while others come from countries
where the alphabet is totally different from ours. Therefore,
there should be opportunities for extension of access to bridg-
ing classes. Finally, the offer of bridging classes in terms of
public and location must be expanded and the number of stu-
dents per class limited.
Then, the content and methods need to be reviewed, but also
systematized to provide consistent practices with regard to the
needs of youth. Priority should be given to learning French—as
a foreign language—a major condition for the integration of a
new culture and new learning. Organizing a system of “men-
toring” with the intervention of outsider stakeholders or tutor-
ing in French could be some of the practices to retain (Crutzen
& Manço, 2003). Many examples have shown the importance
of establishing a relationship of trust with the child that ignores
“academic performance” in the beginning. As such, techniques
like drama have proven effective because the learning it gener-
ates is transdisciplinary: looking, listening, thinking, behaving
in a group and, above all, in class, learning methodically and
discussing. There is also a lack of consistency with the psycho-
logical profile of that audience. Indeed, the trauma experienced
in the country of origin, which often continues well into the
host country to the extent that they live both a tearing away
from one culture and a culture shock in one other, implies the
need for the establishment of specific support both psychologi-
cal and intercultural. The issue of improving the expertise and
training (initial or ongoing) of teachers also remains significant.
It begins with regularizing the status of those specializing in
care for newly arrived children, an issue that has implications
for their motivation. Then training programs designed for them
should be put in place. Teachers are facing a great challenge: to
accompany an at best heterogeneous and vulnerable public and
to build an intercultural dialogue. Surely this great challenge is
sufficient to justify the establishment of training in FLE (For-
eign language French) first, and training in intercultural educa-
tion secondly to help them manage their diverse classrooms.
Finally, we must not neglect the after school framework that
plays a major role in supporting both young people and parents.
It was found that at this stage taking into account socio-cultural
missions and civic education at school is often relegated to
homework schools. We must therefore redefine the role and
place of the school on these dimensions, in conjunction with its
partners in civil society. Indeed, the needs are wide and the
school cannot assume all of them alone. Therefore, cooperation
between the various structures and institutions (PMS, home-
work schools, MENA centers, civil society, and so on) should
be preferred to ensure a transversal approach that will lead to
mutual enrichment of the different professionals and take better
consideration of the needs (legal, medical, psychological and
social) of young newcomers and their families .
The authors thank A. Willaume, E. Montfort, N. Jeune-
homme, L. Molina, M. Villan and A. Grégoire (Nouveau Saint-
Servais) for their help.
Berg, I. (2009). Quel français enseigner aux primo-arrivants? Traces de
changements, 190.
Centre pour l’Egalité des Chances et la Lutte Contre le Racisme (2010).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 125
126 Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
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