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12° Nicosia,
05 February, 2023
 
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How do we assimilate immigrant children into our educational system?

'How do we welcome a child who, for a variety of reasons, finds himself in a classroom where no one, or almost no one, speaks the same language as him'

Opinion

Opinion

by Dr. Andreas Kasoulidis

As our great George Seferis would say, let's speak plainly. Today, in practice, how do we welcome a child who, for a variety of reasons, finds himself in a classroom where no one, or almost no one, speaks the same language as him, where the only thing he has in common with other kids is his age, and where he has little to no connection to his own identity and culture?

Only good things can come from the success of this project, both for the school and for our society, but especially for the children who deserve it.

The location of the family's home will be the primary factor in determining the school the aforementioned child will attend, and his age—if there is concrete proof—or an approximation of it—will be the primary factor in determining the class he will enroll in. It's fine if the school is supported by the DRASE (School and Social Inclusion Actions) program. This means that this child will receive additional instruction in the Greek language. This time will be determined by a variety of factors, including the number of children in the same class as him/her, the children's learning readiness, their interest, and how supportive the family (can be) in this endeavor. The difficulties for the teacher in such a setting are obvious. Some of these kids really impress us with their desire to learn and how quickly they assimilate into our educational system, while others move along more slowly and some kids remain uninterested, which puts them in the category of those who leave school early.

In order to effectively manage this significant challenge, Nikos Christodoulides, the independent candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Cyprus, has proposed a comprehensive policy framework that includes the establishment of a State Ministry of Immigration, Asylum, and Integration. In particular, he proposes that in schools with a large number of children with an immigrant biography, the number of pupils per class is reduced in order to facilitate the educational process and effectively address the phenomenon of early school leaving and that there be a better distribution of pupils with an immigrant biography in schools, taking substantial measures to support them and promoting compulsory learning of the English language.  The proposal for compulsory Greek language learning is not limited to children but is also extended to adults through training programs developed in collaboration with employers and taking into account their working hours.

It is expected that by implementing the above proposals, teachers in a department with fewer children will be able to maximize children's useful learning time and improve learning outcomes. Furthermore, by making Greek compulsory - through a properly structured educational program following the morning program - it is expected that the loss of lessons from the morning program, in which some children may have particular weaknesses and talents, will be avoided, and there will be greater flexibility in the acquisition of the Greek language.  To achieve this goal, we must ensure substantial support measures,' as the proposal emphasizes, such as the use of formal and informal translators, the configuration of the educational environment so that it is familiar to the children, the implementation of inter-lingualism by encouraging children to use their language of origin, the restructuring of school curricula, and the further autonomy and support of school units to develop their own integrity. There is one certainty. Only good things can come from the success of this project, both for the school and for our society, but especially for the children who deserve it.

[This article was first published in Kathimerini's Sunday edition and translated from its Greek original]

TAGS
Cyprus  |  migration  |  education

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