Contemporary Debates on Migrant Children Integration

Migrant children and their integration, whether in educational contexts or otherwise, is not an under-researched area. Research in this area is ongoing, and has generated tens of thousands of papers with new ones continually added. To cut through this material, we worked to review a few thousand of the most recent papers, with a few hundred becoming those that this paper is based on. This paper therefore aims to present some of the key contemporary debates on child migrants and their educational contexts, and what integration might mean.

First, the paper discusses identity and integration, drawing on ideas of acculturation and so how individuals, both migrants and those they meet, change in terms of their identity and community. Importantly, it notes that terms such as bicultural and integration simplify a multidimensional process, where there is neither coherence in any host or migrant aggregation, nor is any acculturation uniform. Further, it finds that alternative analogies of ‘anchoring’ also are useful for understanding how individuals have attachments to community or cultural structures, including schools as institutions.

 Second, therefore, we turn to those community structures that provide such attachments, including religious institutions, other community groups and families as both attachment and an intermediary for attachments. This, of course, raises questions about when any attachments might actually be a barrier, as opposed to being a support, for making further attachments.

 Third, the paper considers the status of asylum seeking and other unaccompanied children. Here it is noted that these young people have two extra barriers beyond those of the wider migrant cohort. They are more likely to have adverse experiences as part of their journey, including war in their origination and perilous crossings. They are also more likely to be disconnected from the community structures mentioned previously if they are, especially on arrival, placed into state care such as foster families or group homes.

 The paper then moves on to a specific set of barriers related to hostility, stereotyping, or other conflict-type behaviours that may arise. It then discusses a key component, wellbeing, that could be both cause and outcome of integration and educational success.

 Finally, this paper focuses on educational contexts themselves, and so those schoolrelated barriers to integration and what goes on in schools to help integration and school success.

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DG Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020 (H2020-SC6-MIGRATION-2018: Addressing the challenge of forced displacement)

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