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ReGES: Findings on the integration of refugee children and adolescents into the German educational system

The project "ReGES - Refugees in the German Educational System" has accompanied more than 4,800 refugee children and adolescents over a longer period and investigated how well they are being integrated into the German educational system. A transfer report now summarises central findings on the situation of refugee children in day-care facilities and in school. The analyses of the collected data show that integration in various areas of education is indeed successful, but they also provide indications of the need for support. Language promotion measures in particular play a key role.

ReGES is a longitudinal study that follows more than 4,800 children and young people with a refugee background. It started in July 2016 at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi) and was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). At the end of the ReGES project, the analyses of various researchers have now been summarised in a transfer report. This offers a comprehensive overview of the findings to date and paints a differentiated picture of the integration of refugee children and young people at various points in the German educational system. The implications of the findings extend well beyond the formal education sector.

Refugee children significantly less often cared for in day care centres
Within the framework of the study, 2,405 children aged at least four years who had not yet started school at the time of the first survey and their parents were interviewed. 79.2% of the children attended a day care centre. The attendance rate of the refugees surveyed is significantly lower than that of other groups of children of the same age. Dr. Jutta von Maurice and Dr. Gisela Will, the two authors of the transfer report, consider attendance at a day care centre to be meaningful and important, especially for children with a refugee background. The families whose children did not attend a day care centre most often gave the reason that no place was available. However, the specific situation of refugees goes beyond this, according to the authors of the transfer report, as some parents report a lack of information.

"A pleasing result is that 94.1% of the educators surveyed consider the integration of children with a refugee background in their institution to be successful," says Jutta von Maurice, head of the ReGES study. However, it should not go unmentioned that 5.9% do not report successful integration.

German language as a key competence
As part of the study, 2,415 adolescents aged between 14 and 16 were asked how they assessed their language skills in general (understanding, speaking, reading, writing) and with reference to specific use cases. The data collected indicate clear differences in competence in everyday and educational language.

While the young people surveyed often assess their skills in general as "rather good" or even "very good", the differentiated survey shows a much more complex picture: for example, 93.0% can greet someone or introduce themselves, but only 41.1% can follow most TV programmes without any problems. And finally, only 18.7% can read literature and non-fiction, 15.2% say they can write demanding texts.

"The findings on language competence point very clearly to the need for language promotion measures. Here, the finding that 64.9 % of the young people were not participating in any measure to promote German skills at the time of the survey is alarming," says Prof. Dr. Hans-Günther Roßbach, former director of the Bamberg Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories and one of the applicants for the study. He therefore calls for the expansion of offers of language support in and out of school.

Major challenges in the school careers of young refugees
The young people surveyed in the study provided information on their school attendance before, during and after their flight. "The data show, among other things, that the school careers of the young people surveyed were interrupted for more than a year on average due to the flight and in the course of arriving in Germany," says Gisela Will. Moreover, the subsequent schooling in Germany often takes place in lower grades that do not correspond to the age of the young people. Gisela Will, project coordinator of the ReGES study, emphasises that it is important to keep an eye on possible cumulative risks in the educational paths of young refugees.

Improved data on the situation of refugees in the German education system
Within the framework of ReGES, refugee children and young people as well as their families were interviewed several times (= survey waves). Parents and young people provided information on personal and refugee-specific characteristics as well as on their life and educational experiences in Germany. The refugees also had the opportunity to report on educational goals and future aspirations. Data was also collected from the educational professionals as well as the full-time and voluntary social workers in the communities and shared accommodation. Thus, the ReGES study was able to create a rich database on the situation of refugee children and young people in the German education system, which will soon be available for use by the scientific community. The papers published so far mainly refer to the first wave of the survey. Further analyses with data from the later survey waves are in preparation.

New study at LIfBi: "Educational Trajectories of Refugee Children and Adolescents"
At the end of January, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) approved funding for a new project "Educational Trajectories of Refugee Children and Adolescents" ("BildungswegeFlucht"), which builds on the data from the ReGES study. The project examines educational trajectories and educational decisions of young refugees at central interfaces of the German education system with a longer-term perspective.

The full report on the ReGES project can be found at Please note that those are only available in German.

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