Globalization and Education: The Integration of Immigrant Youth in Europe

Globalization and Education: The Integration of Immigrant Youth in Europe


by Maurice Crull


The integration of immigrants and their offspring into the receiving society is a primary challenge of globalization (C. Suarez-Orozco, 2004:173). The oldest children born to post-war migrants to West-Central Europe have recently finished their educational careers and entered the labor market. This group of children of immigrants in Europe is very diverse. The largest group consists of children of labor migrants followed by children of ex-colonial migrants. The group of children of refugees is growing very rapidly and is in itself highly diverse. Marcelo Suarez-Orozco and Desiree Baolian Qiun-Hillard advocate that educators should develop an agenda to incorporate the newcomers (M. Suarez-Orozco and Baolian Qiun-Hillard, 2004:p.16). This chapter aims to respond to the call for a new educational agenda designed to facilitate immigrant children’s integration into their new communities.

Immigrant youth’s life chances and future careers are shaped both by family and community resources and by the opportunities offered by the educational institutions they attend. Educational institutions in particular determine to a large extent the opportunities they will have. While immigration is a global phenomenon, responses to it have largely occurred at the individual national level. In this chapter I look for globally relevant responses. I will begin by examining optimal institutional arrangements for incorporating children of immigrants into education systems across countries. The structure of educational institutions is the product of a long history of national policies. By looking at the integration patterns of the same immigrant group in different countries, I will attempt to identify and describe the best institutional practices. I will also discuss best practices in mobilizing ethnic resources in different European countries. Integration without community empowerment is doomed to fail. The use of existing knowledge, expertise, and networks of immigrants and their children is vital in bridging the gap with the various native populations. Specifically, I will advocate that the capital (knowledge and experience) of successful immigrant origin students be put to use more effectively.

This chapter focuses on one part of a larger educational agenda in response to the effects of globalization. The question of intercultural education, for example, is another important part of the discussion that I briefly address here. The debate about globalization and education has largely focused on the need for curricular reforms and how these reforms have changed student-teacher interactions. The conversation has generally not touched upon the ways in which our educational systems hinder or stimulate the integration of children of immigrants, and in this chapter, I seek to bring these issues to the forefront.

Background: The Children of Immigrants in Europe

The children of immigrants are now a prominent force in many European school districts; in Amsterdam and Rotterdam they constitute the majority of schoolchildren; in Brussels, they make up over 40 percent of the school-age population; in London, English is a second language for a third of schoolchildren. Unfortunately, the children’s academic performance generally lags in all school-success indicators: they drop out at higher rates; repeat more frequently; and are concentrated in the least-challenging educational tracks (Crul and Vermeulen, 2003, see also Huggonier, this volume). The educational gap between theses students and the children of native born parents is of great concern to local and national governments. There is an ongoing debate about whether the “new second generation” mostly children of guest workers from the seventies- will be able to move up the educational ladder or whether they will form a new underclass in Europe’s largest cities (Crul and Vermeulen, 2003; Heckmann, 2001).

Based on the results of earlier waves of migration, some researchers (largely historians) have been optimistic about the possibility for successful integration. Other scholars sketch a less optimistic scenario. The latter group points to the fact that almost all guest workers came with little human and cultural capital, which negatively affects their children’s chances in school. This is echoed in public debate when politicians and the media declare that the integration of these immigrants and their children has failed.

Without being fatalistic we must acknowledge that a fairly large group of immigrant origin youth is lagging behind their native born peers. The actual size of this group differs both by country and according to the background and characteristics of the immigrants themselves. In general, it is fair to say that children of immigrants who bring low levels of human capital into the country are most disadvantaged. On the European continent this mainly encompasses migrants from North Africa and Turkey. In Britain, it includes children of former colonial lower class families. The performance of children of refugees also demonstrates the importance of class in determining outcomes. Most of the children from upper-class families from Iran or Iraq do well academically, while children from rural Somalia and Ethiopia experience greater difficulties in school.

The importance of the institutional educational setting

Apart from differences between immigrant groups we can also see differences between countries (see also Süssmuth, this volume). This is most clearly observed when we compare migrants of the same ethnic group in different countries.

I have chosen to compare the outcomes of Turkish migrants across Europe because they form the single largest immigrant group in Europe, numbering up to four million across the continent. 

Table: Population of Turkish descent in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Austria and Belgium.

  Countries Population of Turkish descent
 Germany1  (2002)  2.470.000
 Netherlands2   (2002)      299.662
 France3            (1999)       218.360
 Austria4            (2001)     182.000
 Belgium5      (2001)       109.000
 Total  3.279.022

 1 The Turkish population count in Germany are estimates because of those who are naturalized have to be calculated based on the naturalization registers (Worbs, 2003).
 2 The Turkish population count in the Netherlands includes naturalized and non-naturalized Turks (Crul and Doomernik, 2003).
 3 The Turkish population count includes those who are born in France with one or two parents who are born in Turkey and those with the Turkish nationality (Simon, 2003).
 4 The Turkish population count in Austria excludes those who are born in Austria and who have one or two parents born in Turkey (Herzog, 2003)
 5 The Turkish population count in Belgium includes both non-naturalized and an estimate of the naturalized citizens from Turkish descent (Crul and Vermeulen, 2003).

Turkish labor migration followed comparable patterns everywhere. Beginning with Germany in 1961 and ending with Sweden in 1967, a number of European countries signed official labor agreements with Turkey. Spontaneous migration through family and village networks later ensued increasing the numbers of migrants arriving in Europe. The peak of labor migration was between 1971 and 1973, during which time more than half a million Turkish workers came to work in Western Europe, 90% of them recruited by German industry (Özüekren and Kempen, 1997:5). European industry was in need of low-skilled labor at the time, and the majority of the first-generation Turkish “guest workers” were recruited from the lowest socioeconomic strata in their home countries. Typically these migrants had very little formal education. In the rural areas where most of them grew up, educational opportunities were limited to the primary school level. Generally speaking, first-generation men had finished primary school only and most women had just a few years of schooling. The first generation made few advances in the European labor market - in fact, the contrary occurred (Crul and Vermeulen, 2003).

Most second-generation Turkish children - those born in Northern Europe or, more broadly, those who arrived before the age of primary school - grew up in unfavorable circumstances. Family income was often very low by European standards, and most families lived in substandard and cramped conditions. In many neighborhood schools, children from a mix of migrant backgrounds were in the majority making segregation by immigration status a growing European reality.

A comparison of second generation “Turks” in different countries does not necessarily mean one is comparing the “same” group. An adequate comparison must also take in account the differences within the Turkish immigrant populations, based on characteristics like ethnicity, first-generation education levels, and religion. The biggest difference between the countries is found in the educational level of the parents. Especially Germany sticks out. In general the educational level of the fist generation labour migrants was a bit higher than in the other countries (Crul and Vermeulen, 2003). Meaning that there were more parents with a diploma from primary school and lower vocational education. We would therefore expect the children of Turkish parents in Germany to do a bit better than in other countries. There are also differences between countries in the numbers of Kurdish and political refugees from Turkey. For this reason I restrict the comparison to the second generation and look only to those who are fifteen years and older. This segment of the Turkish youth is comparatively homogeneous in terms of their background characteristics. These young adolescents are almost all children of labor migrants who were recruited in the seventies. Children of political refugees and children of refugees of the Kurdish-Turkish conflict tend to be younger (see Crul and Vermeulen, 2003).

The educational experiences and outcomes of second generation Turks in different European countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Austria) show startling differences. The greatest distinctions can be seen in the percentages of young Turkish people in vocational tracks - the lowest secondary school type in all countries (see Appendix 1). In France, about a quarter and in Belgium and the Netherlands about a third of the second-generation Turks fall into a vocational track, whereas in Germany and Austria the figure is between two thirds and three quarters (Crul and Doomernik, 2003; Herzog-Punzensberger, 2003; Simon, 2003; Timmerman e.a., 2003; Worbs, 2003).

National contexts vary widely in the terms of the opportunities available to second-generation Turks. Although from the data cited above, one maybe tempted to conclude that France and, to a lesser extent, the Netherlands and Belgium provide the best institutional contexts for migrants, it is important to look at the whole story to understand the implications of the data. Drop-out rates paint a very different picture (see Appendix 1). Although enrollment of second generation Turks in vocational programs is lower in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, this group’s drop out rates are considerably higher in those countries than in Germany and Austria (Crul and Doomernik, 2003; Herzog-Punzensberger, 2003; Simon, 2003; Timmerman, 2003 Worbs, 2003). It is difficult to single out one country where these youth are doing better than in the others. We can only tentatively identify what are good and what are bad practices in a particular country as compared to others. On closer inspection, the disparities can be attributed to different institutional contexts and practices in each country.

The age at which education begins is an important factor in determining academic success. In France and Belgium, Turkish second-generation children, like other children, start school at the age of two or three. In Germany and Austria, most second-generation Turkish children only start school at the age of six. Thus, immigrant children in France and Belgium receive between three and four more years of schooling during the crucial developmental phase in which they begin learning the majority language. In France and Belgium very young Turkish children are required to speak French (or Flemish) with their peers on a daily basis, and, on top of that, they are learning these languages in an educational environment.

Striking differences also result from the number of face-to-face contact hours students have with teachers during the compulsory schooling years. Once again, these numbers are below average for Turkish pupils in Germany and Austria, especially during the first part of their educational careers. Since children in Germany and Austria only attend school for a half-day, nine-year-olds in German schools have a total of 661 contact hours per year, as compared to 1019 hours in the Netherlands. Turkish children in Germany thus receive about ten hours less instruction per week than those in the Netherlands (Crul and Vermeulen, 2003). Although children in Germany and Austria are typically assigned more homework, help with homework is a scant resource in Turkish families. This may also be a serious disadvantage.

A third distinction, which in combination with the first two can result in serious disparities, lies in school selection mechanisms. School selection occurs for children in Germany and Austria at the age of 10. In Germany the selection mechanism channels children into three school levels and in Austria into two. Coupled with the late start and the below-average contact hours, Turkish second-generation pupils in Germany and Austria are thus given little time to overcome their disadvantaged starting position. In this respect, Turkish children in Germany and Austria are in the worst possible situation. Selection in the Netherlands occurs two to four years later and in France at age 15. Due to early selection in Germany and Austria most Turkish origin pupils end up in a short vocational stream-Hauptschule.

Based on these factors, it seems logical that second-generation Turks in France enter preparatory schools for higher education at higher rates than elsewhere in Europe. Children start going to school early in France, have more hours of face-to-face instruction, and do not face educational selection until a fairly late age comparatively.
Drop-out rates measuring the number of children who leave school without a secondary school diploma is another important indicator to consider. In this area, France, the Netherlands and Belgium have considerably worse statistics than Germany and Austria (see Appendix). In Germany and Austria only a very small percentage of second generation Turks fails to earn a Hauptschule diploma (lower secondary vocational education) or another secondary education diploma (Herzog-Punzensberger, 2003; Worbs, 2003). In the Netherlands, the percentage of children who do not earn a diploma, including a diploma from a vocational school, (Vbo) is much higher (Crul and Doomernik, 2003). In France, the situation is the most dramatic (Simon, 2003). The educational system in France differs both from the educational system in Germany as well as from that of Belgium and the Netherlands. Until the age of fifteen children are not split up in different tracks. They attend “college” together, and a diploma from their “college” provides access to different types of Lycee. If a student does not earn a diploma from her “college” she automatically enters a vocational school. Due to children’s early start and the late selection in France, most second generation Turkish children enter the more prestigious Lycee. More than in any other country, second generation Turkish students are represented in a preparatory track for higher education. But this also has a flip side. In a “Lycee,” the stakes are higher and, as a result, those students who cannot meet the demands often end up with no diploma at all.

In the Netherlands, a considerable group of second-generation Turkish children move into a vocational track at age twelve. Their situation resembles that of second-generation Turkish children in Germany who move into vocational education at age ten. The drop-out rate in the Netherlands, however, is significantly higher. A number of factors related to the differences between the vocational tracks in Germany and the Netherlands can explain the major disparities in the drop out rates. In the Netherlands, the dropout rate is especially high among youth 16 years and older. By age 14 or 15 most second-generation Turks in Germany already possess a Hauptschule diploma. At the age of 16 in the Netherlands, however, they are still required to be at school full time. Additionally, in the Netherlands, the apprenticeship period, which is often an attractive feature of the vocational track, is limited. Half of the classes that students must take are general theoretical subjects, and the other half are devoted to the vocation for which they are training. This alone may explain why many students have negative feelings toward their school experiences. But there are also other factors involved.

The vocational stream in the Netherlands is considered to be a marginal stream within the educational system. Lower Vocational Education (Vbo) has often been described as the “garbage can” of the education system. Students with learning disabilities and those who were unsuccessful in more advanced tracks, often due to behavioral problems, are automatically placed in vocational education, and this stream also absorbs newly arrived immigrant children. Pels (2001:6) has researched and described teacher-pupil interaction in a Vbo school. She counted about eighty admonitions during just one mathematics class. Crul (2000: 139) reported on the prison-like climate and the regular fights that break out in Vbo schools, sometimes even between pupils and teachers. The resulting school climate is hardly conducive to positive school performance, and thus, drop-out rates in Vbo are very high.

The German Hauptschule is on the opposite end of the spectrum. This vocational track is viewed as a mainstream option, and many children of native-born parents go through this track. The educational climate in Hauptschule is not considered problematic. These factors help to explain why more second-generation Turkish children complete their academic program in the school system in Germany than in the Netherlands.

In Germany and Austria, most second-generation Turkish pupils enter a dual track at the age of fourteen. They start to work as an apprentice in a firm three to four days a week. The apprenticeship track tends to facilitate their transition to the labor market. Countries with robust apprenticeship systems have lower unemployment among second generation Turks than countries without an apprenticeship system.(1) Some second generation Turks in Germany and Austria continue to work at the company were they started in an apprenticeship model (Böcker and Thränhardt, 2003: 42). Those who do not continue at their original placement can demonstrate two to three years of work experience to their potential new employers. In France and the Netherlands, second-generation Turks must enter the labor market on their own.

Discrimination seems to play a more significant role in the labor market in France and the Netherlands than it does in Germany or Austria where the transition to employment is formalized through the apprenticeship system. There are two explanations for the increased discrimination in France and the Netherlands. There is a big difference in the starting position for the second generation Turks in the four countries while entering the labor market. In Germany and Austria second generation Turks can show a diploma and their employment record as an apprentice, while many of the second generation Turks in France and the Netherlands have neither a diploma or nor any meaningful work experience. The decision to employ someone in Germany and Austria is based, on a large extent, on the individual employment potential employees can show. The decision in France and the Netherlands is based singularly on school qualifications. Research in France and the Netherlands shows that if employers can choose between immigrant youth and native youth with the same qualifications, immigrant youngsters generally are not given an equal chance (Crul and Doomernik, 2003: 1057; Simon, 2003). Another difference between the countries is that youth unemployment rates in France and the Netherlands are much higher than in Germany and Austria. Research shows that discrimination is more wide spread when there is tough competition on the labor market. Employers cannot afford to discriminate when there are labor shortages.

The comparison between the countries illustrates how institutional arrangements and educational policies play a critical role in shaping second-generation students’ integration. Specifically, the starting age for compulsory schooling, amount of school contact hours in primary school, early or late selection in secondary education, and the existence of an effective the apprenticeship system contribute significantly to the likelihood that children of Turkish immigrants will experience success or failure in earning a diploma and obtaining employment.

Best Practices

It is tempting to attempt to design an ideal educational setting for children of immigrants based on the examples from the four countries described above. Any such attempt, however, would not do justice to each country’s unique social and economic history that shaped the formation of their education systems. Our ambition must be more modest. Based on the research previously discussed, I next discuss a number of options to improve the experiences of children of immigrants in education: early start, late selection and/or second chance options and dual tracks.

Early start

The early start of compulsory school in a number of countries is extremely important for the acquisition of the second language. There is evidence from across Europe showing that starting school at the age of two or three is essential. Lowering the age of compulsory schooling would be a major policy shift but there are a number of possible alternatives that different countries have instituted. Pre-school facilities, which focus specifically on second language acquisition, have been created in a number of countries (for instance ‘Frühstart’ in Germany or ‘Piramide’ and ‘Kaleidoscoop’ in the Netherlands). The pre-school programmes, developed in Europe, are often inspired by programmes as the ‘Head Start’ and ‘Follow Through’ in the United States. Evaluations in the United States show that early childhood programmes both produce short-term effects (after one or two years) and long-term effects on school achievement and retention (Barnett, 1995). The programs seem only to be effective if pre-school methods and pedagogy are properly connected to those used in primary school (Driessen, 2004; Veen e.o., 2000). Preferably pre-school should be incorporated in primary school.

Second chance

Children of immigrants often start school at a disadvantage. It takes some time for them to overcome their disadvantages. In those countries where children receive the support and resources they need, and they are given adequate time to bridge the gap, there is a greater likelihood that they will enter preparatory tracks for higher education. Late selection also has its downsides. More advanced tracks may be too challenging for some students, which will ultimately lead to failure or drop out. Second chance education represents a viable alternative to a pattern of late selection. A second chance can come in a variety of forms:
- Top class primary school
In many countries the last year of primary school is decisive in determining future schooling. Some motivated children may have a better chance to ultimately succeed by having an extra year of primary school to prepare for pass the entrance exam for the more advanced tracks. Results in this area so far proved promising (Bongers e.a.,2002).

- Intermediary classes
Delaying the transition to secondary school is helpful in some cases. Intermediary classes provide children a transitional environment for two years between primary and secondary school. Research shows that many children of immigrants were able to gain acceptance into a more prestigious level after these two intermediary years (Crul, 2000).

- The long route
Research on children of immigrants who have achieved educational success shows that for many of them, the road was bumpy (Crul, 2000). These students started at a very low level and gained access to higher education step by step. This is reflective of the traditional course of social mobility for native working class children. The structure of the vocational track is essential in this respect. There should be no obstacles to continue studying within the vocational path. Moving up step-by-step from lower to middle to higher vocational education should be made as smooth as possible.

Dual tracks

The apprenticeship system stems from a long tradition of involving companies in the education of youngsters. The experience of being an apprentice seems to improve the transition to the labor market especially for groups whose entrance to work is often difficult. The apprenticeship system can potentially serve as a strong weapon against youth unemployment and school desertion. Firms that provide trainee posts and the early start (at age fourteen in Germany and Austria) of the dual track have proven to be essential. For a substantial group of children of immigrants with learning difficulties, the apprenticeship is a good alternative to full-time school.

Several countries without an apprenticeship system have recently developed programs that draw elements from traditional apprenticeship programs (Crul, 2004). They put pupils to work in firms earlier and for a more substantial period. The big challenge is to find companies willing to provide apprenticeship positions.

An important characteristic of the aforementioned options is that they are not specifically targeted at children of immigrants. As a result, they do not result in the stigmatization of immigrant groups nor will they generate resentment among the native population.

Using the potential in the ethnic communities

School Contact Persons and School Assistants

In many countries, schools encounter difficulties in communicating with immigrant parents. Language is one of a number of barriers that can make contact with immigrant families quite challenging. Until recently, language teachers acted as translators and were often asked to bridge the cultural gap between parents and teachers. In some countries, this is still a common practice. Language teachers, however, are neither trained nor paid for this role.

The role of intermediary is gradually being taken over by school contact people such as parent or community liaisons and school assistants who themselves may come from migrant backgrounds (Crul, 2004). They are not trained as teachers but specifically as intermediaries, a job that requires fewer skills and therefore makes it easier to recruit candidates. Intermediaries play an especially important role in regard to newly arrived immigrants parents, who most often face difficulties in supporting their children. In most countries, school contact people and school assistants can play a vital role during the transition period as there are still very few teachers with immigrant backgrounds in European schools (Crul, 2004).

Student Mentors as Role Models

The majority of the first generation parents went to school for only a few years or did not attend school at all. This, in conjunction with their difficulties speaking the native language, makes them ill prepared for helping their children in schools in a new country. Over the past decade, the number of immigrant children pursuing university-level studies has grown significantly. These students are among the best and brightest of their respective communities, of which they will form the future elite. They have succeeded against all odds, overcoming the obstacles one by one. They are keenly aware of what is needed to succeed in school, and they also understand how things typically function in an immigrant family. This background and experience makes them ideal mentors for children of immigrants in secondary schools. Indeed it is a positive development that a growing number of students with immigrant backgrounds are working as volunteers in student mentor projects or homework-support classes in countries like the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Belgium.

Student mentoring provides direct assistance with career and professional development, emotional and psychological support and role-modeling (see Crul, 2002; Crul and Kraal, 2004; Jacobi 1991). Mentoring relationships can also positive impact students’ self-esteem (see also the meta-study of Cohen et al. 1982). Evaluations of mentoring programs clearly indicate that student mentoring can be a highly effective instrument in immigrant education. That is to say, the projects evaluated (Crul 2002; Crul and Kraal, 2004; Crul & Akdeniz 1997; Groen 2000; Hulst 2000; Meijer & Reuling 1998; Paulides 2000; Vaessen et al. 1998; Veugelers 2000) were reported to have positive cognitive and non-cognitive effects for student participants (see also Topping & Hill 1995).

In the Netherlands a nation-wide program has been developed to provide mentoring and guidance to children of immigrants. The program aims at serving both “at risk” pupils and “high potential” pupils. Training and project manuals have been developed and tested. One of the oldest mentoring projects is the Moroccan Coaching Project in The Hague. Moroccan higher education students coach Moroccan secondary school students on a one to one basis. The emphasis is on at risk pupils- pupils mainly in the lowest educational track (lower vocational education or a form of special education). During a five-year period, mentor students supported 118 pupils for one year on a weekly basis. Only five of them (4 percent) dropped-out of school (Crul and Kraal 2004). This result is even more impressive if we take a closer look at the pupils involved. Many of them had skipped classes on a regular basis and had been known to verbally and physically abuse other pupils and sometimes even teachers. On top of this, many of them had severe learning problems. Girls in the project tended to be extremely shy and have a very low self-esteem; boys, on the other hand, were often extremely verbal and on their way to become gang leaders.(2) In many cases, teachers and even parents had given up on the youth participating in the mentorship program. The mentor and pupil work together to prioritize what the pupil wants to change. Generally the focus is on improving their behavior towards teachers and friends. Both the mentor and the contact person at school monitor the student’s progress toward reaching her goals.
What did you learn from your mentor?
“Actually, almost everything. How you behave with people.”
Did you change because of her?
”I can keep my big mouth shut now, no more fights. I always had fights with classmates, not any more. If someone says something to me, I keep quiet, I do not start an argument.”
How did this change come about?
“Because of Toeria. She has taught me to keep my big mouth shut. She has taught me a lot. She has already been in University for three years; she already went through a lot. She has more experiences than me. She has taught me how to deal with things. She also had difficulty at school before.”

Relationships with friends are very important for teenagers at this age. Association with friends can be an important factor in failing grades. Their friends can distract them during instruction in class and also time spent with friends outside school can compete with time spent on schoolwork. Peer pressure from friends at this age can be a strong influence. They are insecure about their own desires and easily influenced by their friends. The mentor recognizes the importance to the pupil/mentee of belonging to a group of his or her own age, but simultaneously makes it clear that one should not let oneself be led by what your friends do. Parents often do not take any action beyond forbidding their children to hang out with certain friends.

The central idea of mentoring is that it uses the knowledge that exists within immigrant communities rather than trying to intervene from the outside. The rising number of migrant students in higher education provides a unique form of capital, which should not be overlooked.

Reflections on the future research agenda

Before focusing on some specific areas of research, that in my opinion form the key in addressing the most important issues in relation to globalization and learning, I would like to make a more general plea for international comparative research.

Europe in particular presents itself as a gigantic laboratory for experimentation. Although they are faced with similar issues of diversity and integration, European countries have created their own individual integration and diversity policies. These policies have developed almost without taking any note of programs set up in neighboring countries. It is on the one hand striking to see how similar some of the programs are (especially on second language learning) but on the other hand there are vast differences indeed.

This natural laboratory could potentially serve as an enormous reservoir of research. Research projects could study the effects of different forms of intervention in early learning, second language learning, bilingual learning, remedial teaching and for instance second change learning in a comparative perspective (see Mc Andrew 2005). As my research suggests, both institutional arrangements and targeted policies can have a great impact on educational success of children of immigrants. It is also institutional educational arrangements that matter. People often take for granted the structure, organization, and policies of their school system. An international comparison can make the specific impacts of these policies, procedures and structures on children of immigrants clear to us.

In this paper I have briefly described some of the programs that make use of the social and cultural capital of immigrants and their children. We need to take advantage of this capital to bridge the gap between educational institutions and immigrant families. The greatest challenge is how to professionalize and institutionalize these programs. Research can be helpful to achieve this goal. Most of these projects have not been evaluated or rely on self-evaluation. This dearth of adequate evaluation results in a lack of improvements to existing programs. Project assessments would be helpful in promoting further program development and making policy makers aware of their potential contribution to immigrant youth’s school success. It is a way to build best practice in cities, countries and potentially across countries.

The Tensta Gymnasium in Stockholm, Sweden could potentially be such an example of best practice for Europe. All over Europe secondary schools in neighborhoods with high concentrations of immigrant youth face similar issues to what we witnessed at Tensta. They can become stigmatized as “an immigrant school,” known for their pupils’ low performance; violence; and a generally unattractive school climate. As it happened in Tensta, children from native-born parents start to leave the school, followed by the higher performing children of immigrant parents. School resources dry up and the school deteriorates further. At a certain point school closure may even be considered. The experience of the Tensta Gymnasium shows that just bringing in additional resources will not help to stop this process. To really turn the tide a whole new concept of learning must be considered and carefully implemented. To an outsider Tensta’s technological innovations and the new interior learning spaces may seem to be the most striking changes. I would however stress a different aspect. The school’s transformation has resulted in increased contact between teachers and pupils. Both the number of one-on-one contact hours as well as the intensity of contact increased.  Teachers inevitably get to know their students better and therefore notice when a child is not participating, is falling behind or is regularly absent. Teachers have more time and possibilities to intervene. My hypothesis is that school systems that, like Tensta, create more opportunities for one on one contact and give teachers space for individual interventions are more effective in addressing a diverse school population.


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Maurice Crul is social scientist at the University of Amsterdam Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES). He is coordinating the international research project TIES - The Integration of the European Second generation.