ReGES - Refugees in the German Educational System

In recent years, the immigration of refugees to Germany has increased significantly. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 1,535,658 people applied for asylum in Germany in the years 2014 to 2017 alone. Among these people who fled from their countries of origin are also a large number of minors. This poses new organizational and integration policy challenges for the society. A crucial building block for the successful integration into the social systems – especially for young refugees – is education. However, reliable data on the educational trajectories of children and adolescents with a refugee background are hardly available so far.

 

 

The longitudinal study "ReGES - Refugees in the German Educational System" will at least partially close this gap. The study examines the integration process of young immigrants into the German educational system and the German society. It is based at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi) in Bamberg and was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) from July 2016 to June 2021.

ReGES followed children and adolescents as well as their parents after their fleeing from crisis areas by means of surveys and tests over a period of several years. The focus of interest was primarily on the conditions under which integration into the educational system would succeed: What services and measures contribute to the integration into the host society? What factors hinder or delay integration?

The rich data material of the ReGES study allows empirical analyses of the educational trajectories of new immigrants as well as of the integration policy challenges in the everyday life of educational institutions – in each case taking into account the influence of migration-specific factors. Currently, the prepared data of the first two survey waves are available as Scientific Use Files for empirical analyses. In addition, first results and publications are already available.

Implementation of the study

ReGES focuses on two key stages in the educational process. The first is early childhood education, which is particularly important for the acquisition of German language skills and the start of an educational career. Second, attention is drawn to the transition from lower secondary school to the vocational training system, which is of central relevance for the medium- and long-term integration into the labor market. Both stages are represented in the study by a corresponding age cohort – Refugee Cohort (RC1 and RC2) – of approximately 2,400 individuals from different countries of origin. In addition to the target persons of children and adolescents, the surveys were also addressed to context persons such as parents, teachers, other professionals and volunteers.

The data collection was carried out in five German Federal States that differ systematically with regard to factors considered important for the integration of refugees: Bavaria, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony (outlined in red in the figure). An important criterion for the selection was the number of refugees received in the Federal States according to the official distribution key. In addition, characteristics such as the unemployment rate, opportunities on the vocational training market and traditions in the area of early childhood care as well as social structures such as population density and the proportion of migrants in the population were also taken into account.

In a first step, the surveys were realized in eight different languages in order to enable the broadest possible initial measurement. Only in the later course of the study a restriction to three languages was applied. Due to the high mobility of the target groups and the changes to be expected, especially at the beginning, a close-meshed survey was used at six-month intervals with different survey modes: While the adolescents and parents were primarily interviewed face-to-face, the other context persons participated in the study by means of paper-based questionnaires. In addition, the children and adolescents were tested on their language skills and general cognitive abilities.