Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg


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Refugee children and youth are in a special situation  regarding education. Because of humanitarian crises, life threatening and traumatic events, separation of relatives and peers  as well as material losses, the biographies of young refugees are in a critical phase of development. In the host country, they must deal with a vast amount of acculturative stress resulting from uncertainty and waiting times concerning their legal protection status, unfavorable accommodation conditions or  a hostile atmosphere in their area of residence. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is growing concern that the difficult educational situation of refugee children and youth is becoming even worse. Generally, research on the educational integration of young refugees is still scarce.


We investigate the role that family and school conditions play for the educational success of refugee children and youth in a regional comparison. We particularly focus on educational inequality in educational transitions (e.g., transition from the primary school to the secondary school or subsequently to VET), educational participation (e.g., lower vs. upper secondary schools) and the acquisition of competencies (e.g., reading, mathematics). These processes are examined within primary school, secondary school, and vocational training. We assume that educational integration of young refugees is a multilevel process on every  stage of education. This means that regional contexts of reception (e.g., educational systems, xenophobia, the economic strength of a region) as well as the formal and informal learning environments (schools, families, communities) are assumed to either facilitate, complicate, or even prevent educational success. To analyze these processes, we evaluate surveys and data from representative assessment data.

To enable social participation of refugee children and youth, the German educational system faces the responsibility to provide necessary learning conditions and to make use of the individual resources and knowledge of the students in order to foster the development of individual potentials, to support adaptation to the context of reception, and to compensate for disadvantages that arise from interrupted educational trajectories. This is  an essential prerequisite for establishing fair chances for educational attainment and participation. The current situation  certainly offers advantages in this regard : Refugee families who immigrated in 2014/15 have substantially improved their knowledge of the German language (Brücker et al. 2019), feel welcome in Germany (Siegert 2019), and have been able to increase their social contacts with members of the host society (Brücker et al. 2020). EDIREG investigates how and why young refugees can succeed at the different educational stages and critical educational transitions, and which potential barriers can be identified in this regard.

With approximately 300.000 refugee students, diversity in schools in Germany has increased considerably. However, the increased numbers are often accompanied by lower German language skills and limited possibilities for the parents to support their children. Therefore, additional educational support is necessary. In view of this, the junior research group EDIREG asks: How effective are the political instruments for refugee schooling? Schooling is mandatory for minors from refugee families; however, educational policies mainly regulate the presence  at school, not the form of support. Further, there are insufficient capacities at schools, language barriers or few knowledge about the level of competencies of the refugee children and youth. Also, the long asylum procedure and the uncertain status of residence, regional and work-specific shortage of supply as well as low German skills are barriers to integration at the vocational training system. The federal states are differently prepared for these challenges. This is the reason why the junior research group examines, which institutional instruments have an effect on educational integration.