Integrate language and subject learning from the earliest grades.

Integrating migrant children into mainstream classes from the beginning of their schooling is associated with better outcomes than enrolling them first in preparatory language classes and delaying entry into mainstream courses. While language training is essential, it should be offered in addition to, not instead of, regular course work.

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Avoid “pull-out” programmes

Some countries immediately place newly arrived immigrant children into mainstream classrooms and provide additional language support, if needed. In other countries, children are placed in special preparatory classes before transferring to mainstream education (OECD, 2006). Some host countries do not allow children with an immigrant background to enter mainstream classes until they can demonstrate pro ciency in the host language (Sirin and Rogers-Sirin, 2015).

Combining language and content learning as soon as it becomes feasible has proven to be most effective in integrating children with an immigrant background into education systems. While language assistance is important, it should be in addition to, rather than instead of, regular instruction – regardless of the age of the student or how long ago he or she arrived in the host country (OECD, 2010).

“Pull-out programmes” are generally unsuccessful both in developing strong language skills and in supporting transitions into mainstream classes because they tend to reduce the amount of teaching time devoted to the main curriculum. Thus immigrant students fall even further behind their non-immigrant peers. Students who participate in these programmes can also wind up being stigmatised, and they are often taught by less-qualifed teachers (Karsten, 2006).

Research has also shown that it is neither necessary nor desirable to postpone teaching of the main curriculum until students fully master the language of instruction (Watts-Taffe and Truscott, 2000). Language development and cognitive development are interconnected, and language learning seems to work best when learners use language for meaningful purposes (Au, 1998).

One way to integrate language and academic learning is to develop curricula for second-language learning. Another is to ensure close co-operation between language teachers and classroom teachers, an approach that is widely used in countries that seem most successful in educating immigrant students, such as Australia, Canada and Sweden (Christensen and Stanat, 2007).

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