My Luxembourg Erasmus + Experience:
I attended the annual conference of the EBSN in Luxembourg on 1st – 2nd June 2017. More than 20 European countries participated at this event.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Basic Skills for Integration" and focused on the current European migrant situation. With the influx of migrants into Europe since 2015, there has been a need to reinvent integration systems. Many of the countries attending the conference were interested in how to get people’s language skills up to standards in an effective way.
The language barrier for all migrants was a common thread throughout the conference. We discussed the length of time traditional teaching methods can take and different ways to improve this. Information was shared on two pilot programmes that have been implemented, each using a different approach to teaching language to migrants. I found these fascinating and something that adult educators in Ireland could adapt to their work.
These examples came from Luxembourg and Norway.
The Luxembourg Project:
At the end of the first day of the conference we were brought to visit the 9+ integration workshop where the Minister of Education for Luxembourg Mr Claude Meisch explained what the programme does.
The programme for migrants:
Gives hands on experience in the workshops
Uses language and maths skills
Teaches how to repair and maintain bicycles
Learners work in the rent a bicycle scheme
Teaches how to use industrial paint and carpentry
These skills are then used for the maintenance of parks and installations of park benches and playgrounds throughout the city. These new skills enable learners to continue studying within Vocational Education and Training (VET) or if they wish to obtain work.
The Norway Pilot Project:
A scheme was piloted by the local government in cooperation with a local employer. The migrants were trained in basic skills in the traditional way but with one important difference. The language that was taught was focused on the necessary vocabulary needed to perform a role within a company. This programme had a two-fold effect - it provided the local industry with a much needed workforce and the migrants were able to develop their everyday language while obtaining practical skills within an industry. The migrants spent two days in the factory and the remaining three days in classroom before completing the programme over a year. What the programme found at the end of the year was the group had developed a much better grasp of the native language quicker than the traditional ways of teaching.
These pilot projects have been deemed a great success as they allow the migrants to integrate into the community easier. It also allows the migrants to improve their own circumstances and contribute to the society in which they have become part of. It’s helping to keep people motivated and promoting lifelong learning.
While Ireland does not have the same number of asylum seekers as our European neighbours, we do have many migrants who cannot speak English within our communities, this can lead to people being isolated. I think the types of programmes introduced by Luxembourg and Norway may be worth exploring and developing in Ireland to help improve social inclusion.
It was fantastic to hear and see the different schemes that are taking place across Europe and I found the whole experience really worthwhile. I would encourage any adult education providers given an opportunity to travel to other countries to participate in sharing of best practice policies/initiatives to do so. I would like to thank AONTAS, Erasmus+ and Warrenmount CED for this opportunity.