Highly educated migrants in adult education in Flanders

Pers / media: !!Expert Comment


In 2015, one-fifth of the Belgian population was of foreign origin, and 11% had a foreign nationality. More than 18% of migrants attending classes at the House of Dutch Language (Huis van het Nederlands) had at least a bachelor's degree. The study conducted in collaboration with the Minderhedenforum by Emel Kilic, a VUB Master's student in educational sciences, focused on the Dutch language proficiency, position, success opportunities in adult education, and the integration process of highly educated migrants. Social integration was found to be the key to their participation in society and the job market.

Emel Kilic interviewed 41 respondents, comprising 24 women and 17 men, between the ages of 20 and 48, who held at least a bachelor's degree in their home country. These respondents represented 25 different nationalities, from Burkina Faso to Peru to Switzerland. They all spoke one or more official languages of the country and had found employment in various fields, including director, therapist, and bartender. The integration and inburgering processes during the interviews varied, with some respondents having lived in Belgium for only two months, while others had been there for almost 27 years. Their reasons for coming to Belgium were diverse, including seeking refuge, finding work, or for love.

Through seven focus groups and ten interviews, Emel asked them about their situation before coming to Belgium, their current situation in Belgium, and their vision for the future. The highly educated migrants emphasized the importance of accurate information, good networks, fair opportunities in the job market, more flexibility in diploma recognition processes, and shorter adult education courses in the integration process. They mentioned the need to update the inburgeringscursus, have more personalized guidance, and access intensive language and vocational courses to facilitate quick integration, social networking, and participation in society. The authorities involved can potentially offer short courses to highly educated migrants and provide support to address labor market classification issues.

Integrating for them is not merely about learning the language or attending vocational courses or an inburgeringscursus. Social integration is considered crucial for their participation in society and the job market. They try to improve their Dutch through volunteer jobs or other informal means, seeking opportunities to learn the language informally, expand their networks, and feel engaged in society.

The study revealed that highly educated migrants face challenges during the integration process, such as difficulties with the inburgeringsproces, intensive information searches, limited social networks, and limited job opportunities.

The respondents recognized the significance of adult education, considering it an essential tool for integrating into society. It not only enhances their job prospects but also contributes to personal growth and offers social benefits. However, the ideal integration process would require more possibilities within adult education. If their diplomas are not recognized, highly educated migrants are dissatisfied with the options offered by adult education, which they perceive as neither numerous nor specific enough. Access to information also appears to be challenging. Even though highly educated female migrants are highly motivated, they sometimes face difficulties in pursuing adult education in reality.

The recognition of foreign diplomas proves to be a stumbling block as well. Some migrants mention experiencing discrimination in the job market, which makes them feel unwelcome. Even if their diplomas are not recognized, finding work in a lower position is challenging. They express the need for more individually tailored guidance and a flexible system. Some respondents complain about the rigid classification of certain professions and the lack of recognition of foreign experience. They also want to expand their social networks, obtain the right information, and strike a good balance between family and work. Only a few respondents express a desire to return to their home country. Besides finding a job, they also seek socio-cultural integration, aiming to actively participate in society.

Based on the ideal integration process described by highly educated migrants with a migration background, Emel suggests the following points for the integration process:

  1. Facilitate building social networks for migrants.
  2. Acknowledge and utilize their experiences and talents in the labor market.
  3. Consider offering shortened courses for highly educated migrants whose diplomas are not recognized or those with relevant (foreign) work experience.
  4. Speed up the language learning process by enabling the language's daily use.
  5. Keep the inburgeringscursus up-to-date.
  6. Separate classes based on learning styles and motivations.

As a result of her master's thesis research, Emel launched an online forum for highly educated migrants called "Highlyfive" to support them during the integration process.

Note: The text appears to be a summary of a study conducted by Emel Kilic, providing insights into the experiences and challenges faced by highly educated migrants during the integration process in Belgium.

Periode19 dec 2016