Support and involvement

The automatic assumption that pupils from immigrant families give schools a negative profile (academic failure, disorder, juvenile delinquency and violence) is not borne out by experience. For a start, migrant pupils – rather like native-born pupils – are not all the same. If there are problems at a school with a high percentage of foreign-born pupils, and we want to understand and solve those problems, then we first have to examine a series of factors before looking at the origin of the pupils and the much-touted notion of «cultural difference.» If there is no attempt to persuade teaching staff to undertake responsibility for learning performance apart from routine procedures, if we don’t upgrade support for teachers (by means of training, educational material and incentives), if we don’t involve parents and students more in school life, if we aren’t open to new teaching methods, if we don’t monitor and advise pupils so as to ensure basic continuity from primary to secondary education, and if we continue to believe that all these issues are not important enough to justify a school director’s calling a meeting outside teaching hours, then I’m afraid that we will just be recycling an unproductive discussion based on complaints. The likelihood of foreign-born pupils achieving a high level of learning is no less than that of native-born pupils, when conditions are favorable. The most important conditions are a supportive family environment and a functional school environment. Everything else comes second to that. (1) Athanassios Gotovos is professor of education in the Philosophy Department of Ioannina University and vice president of the Institute for the Diaspora and Cross-Cultural Education.