Sharing Learning Across Borders to Support Migrant and Refugee Students

International flags surround a common area at the Bialik-Rogozin school

Each year, Teach For All’s Europe region offers travel scholarships to participants and alumni in order to foster regional connectivity and cross-partner learning. This year, 12 Leadership Scholarships were awarded to representatives of eight network partners. Each scholarship recipient identified an existing barrier to education equity in their country and developed a project to address this barrier. Given the significant number of migrants and refugees in Europe, and the growing awareness of the challenges they face, issues relating to international migration were top of mind for several of the participants.

Teach For Austria Fellows Peter Berry and Hannes Aichmayr focused on the question of how to ensure that newly-arrived students are integrated into their schools and communities and learn the local language as quickly and effectively as possible. Because Austria currently favors the integrative approach, where newly-arrived students are immediately placed in a mainstream classroom with other Austrians, Peter and Hannes wanted to compare this with the very different approach taken in Sweden. There, newly-arrived students spend their first year in a separate preparation class with other foreign students where they focus on learning Swedish, and are only integrated into mainstream classes when they achieve a level of fluency.

Hannes and Peter visit Teach For Sweden

With the help of Teach For Sweden, Peter and Hannes were able to visit two schools in Stockholm, both of which had preparation class programs. “What we saw in Sweden was that there were just a lot more resources for language teaching of newly arrived students,” Peter explained, highlighting one of the Fellows’ key discoveries. Specifically, they were impressed by the START Stockholm organization, where all newly-arrived students can receive an initial academic assessment which is factored into their school placement and also given to their teacher to help them better meet the needs of the student.

Peter and Hannes captured their learnings in a podcast, and plan to share them with  Teach For Austria, Teach For Sweden, and the Austrian political system in the new year.

Like their colleagues from Teach For Austria, Teach For Bulgaria alumni Alyona Denyakina, Olga Ninova-Trayanova, and Kristina Rangelova focused their Leadership Scholarship project on the needs of migrant and refugee students. The three women were interested in learning more about how to build a strong community within a school and how to help teachers address the needs of diverse students.

With growing numbers of refugees entering Bulgaria, the diversity of the country’s student population has increased. Now, explained Olga, educators must “start thinking about the diverse children and how to prepare teachers to engage those children.”

Alyona, Olga and Kristina with Teach First Israel alumnus Omri, a teacher at the the Bialik-Rogozin school.

Alyona, Olga ,and Kristina traveled to Israel to learn from the Bialik-Rogozin school in Tel-Aviv which welcomes all children regardless of their immigration status and has an extremely diverse student population. There they attended teacher-training sessions, and spoke to administrators, students, and teachers, including Teach First Israel alumni. They also had the opportunity to interview the head of curriculum development for the educational village Yemin Orde, which is built around a holistic, spiritual model of an educational community.

Olga and Kristina currently work together developing teacher trainings are excited to use what they learned in Israel in a training session on how to teach with diversity in mind and improve student learning in diverse classrooms. They plan to share a summary of their learnings with the educational community in Bulgaria and are organizing a community-building event with members of the country’s Jewish population. “We want to show that this is not only possible in Israel, but that it’s possible and happening here in Bulgaria,” Olga explained.