Best to get migrant children in school early, argues education official

Many migrant parents bring their children to Switzerland as adolescents. Keystone

A Swiss education official says migrant parents should bring their children to Switzerland as soon as possible because schools are the key to integration.

This content was published on June 24, 2018 - 15:53

Silvia Steiner, in an interview published by the Sonntagszeitung on Sunday, noted migrant children who enroll early and complete all education levels in Switzerland have a better shot at success later.

Steiner is president of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of EducationExternal link — cantons are in charge of education in Switzerland — as well as head of education for the canton of Zurich.

The children of migrants are not fundamentally disadvantaged in school, Steiner told the newspaper. However, many migrant parents bring their children to Switzerland as adolescents. 

"From an education policy perspective, they should already be in school in Switzerland from childhood," she said, noting responsibiity for making this happen falls on the parents.

"The disadvantaged are those who arrive late," stressed Steiner, who is a member of the centrist Christian Democratic Party. 

Anyone who arrives in Switzerland by the age of 14 or 15 has no real sense of home. It is then "infinitely more difficult" at these ages to enter school or vocational training.

For Steiner, complicating family reunification, as some politicians advocate, is a mistake from an academic point of view.

She cautions against overestimating the additional burden on schools that take in migrant children.

For Steiner, attending school with migrant children is a boon. But schools in this situation must be supported with more resources.

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