Most sociologists consider education and vocational training a part of the socioeconomic sphere of migrants‘ integration into their host society. Integration in this sphere is characterized by acquiring the rights and status in the host country’s state institutions that are equal or similar to the rights and status enjoyed by the state’s nationals. Thus, in this process, migrants should be given an equal opportunity to participate in their host country’s welfare system. In regards to training and education in the European Union, this means that third-country migrants ought to have lawful access to preschool, elementary, secondary, and higher education systems that is comparable to EU citizens. However, the political, academic, and public discourse in Europe (similarly to the US and Canada) reveals that the relationship between immigration and host countries’ welfare system is highly problematic. At the crux of the problem is the basic question whether immigration presents a burden or a contribution to the social and cultural systems of so called Western countries. This question encompasses a wide spectrum of issues ranging from questions such as: Are Muslim students and students from former Soviet Union in Polish and Czech schools an opportunity for locals to learn about non-EU cultural traditions, or are they a threat to well-established Western conventions? To questions such as pondering whether the notable increase of Vietnamese students in elementary and high schools across Central Europe represents a success marked by national and international ability to assist families in economic need with long-term relocation and settlement or a failure to secure larger benefits of the EU social welfare for EU nationals.
The enclosed Thomas Huddleston article Education and Higher Education for Third-Country International Students indicates that the other set of issues connected to the debate on education and immigration is why and how should third-country nationals be involved in the EU’s migration policy agenda. The recently issued “Europe 2020” strategy directly addresses gaps in education system in the EU (e.g., reducing the average of early school leavers and low-achievers in math, science, and reading, or raising the share of 30-34-year-olds in higher education completion). With the increasing number of migrants, the essential question that the EU legislators now have to grapple with is how they are going to meet the overall education goals, taking into consideration the situation of foreigners and their children regardless their legal status. For example, the overall EU rate for ‘early school leavers’ is 14.1% and the “Europe 2020”’ target is 10%. The equivalent rate for third-country nationals is 33% (Huddleston 2013:1). If the EU is serious about closing the gap and bringing the average down, they have to put pressure on all member countries to fully integrate immigrant families into the educational system. This section of the Migration to the Centre project shows this process in making across the Visegrad Group countries.