Just a few minutes past 11 in the morning and an immense gibberish floods the courtyard of the Pompeu Fabra school in Manlleu, Barcelona. On the soccer field, a pachanga starts. A blond student crosses the playground at full speed, laughing, behind another child with black skin. "He arrived 15 days ago from Ghana. She was born here. They are already friends ", intervenes the director, Lourdes Areñas. The center has 510 students, 27% of immigrant origin. Moroccans, South Americans, Chinese, Romanians, Ghanaians. But in the yard the passport does not matter. The first barrier is the language. Then, almost everything is shot, says the teacher. Most.
The integration of immigrant minors it is part of the educational projects of the centers. There are shelters, specialized attention and accompaniment to families to incorporate them into the community. But the cultural shock and the inequality of opportunities between natives and foreigners are still evident. The academic results are worse among students of immigrant origin and school dropout, higher. The experts advocate a change of model towards an intercultural education, where diversity is incorporated into the curriculum and segregation is combated inside and outside the classroom.
"My daughter was from third to sixth grade in a classroom with only immigrant children, mostly Arabs. She cried because her classmates did not speak her language and at recess she was alone, "says Marilú Alberca, who arrived in 2006 from Terrassa (Barcelona) from Argentina. The girl, who was born that same year, was schooled in La Nova Electra, a public school. Five years ago, the problems started: "They told me that they changed her class because she had learning problems, but in that group there was no Spanish. They were ghettos", Protest. Marilú denounced this segregation before the Educational Inspectorate and raised the complaint to SOS Racismo. According to the Generalitat, the Inspection acted and ordered that the groups be redistributed.
In the 2016-2017 academic year, there were 721,609 students of foreign origin in the non-university education system, 18% more than 10 years ago. Autonomous communities, with educational competences, have deployed resources, such as reception rooms, to attend to newcomers. The Ministry also finances projects, such as the MUS-E, to improve integration through art. "Different cultures work to reinforce the feeling of belonging to their country of origin and host country ", explains Nuria Manzano, director of the National Center for Innovation and Educational Research.
In Catalonia, the community with the most students of foreign origin (23.8%), there are 801 host classrooms. They serve, above all, to break the linguistic barrier, and combine with classes in the ordinary classroom with other classmates. "It's like a landing strip. They arrive confused. The basic thing is to give emotional support and prioritize migratory grief, "explains Àngel Ramos, a teacher at the reception hall of the Sant Andreu Institute in Barcelona.
Some experts say that these classrooms "have given good results", but they have fallen short. "We have done well but not so much integration. The most delicate moment is to fully enter an ordinary classroom. The system has a hard time catering to students with different difficulties, "says Albert Quintana, tutor of a reception classroom in Girona.
The backpack that the kids bring is not minor and the approach of each case requires time. "The welcome has to go beyond the first year. After the two courses the supports stopped. It is necessary to promote meeting spaces between the centers and outside them, "says Jordi Pàmies, researcher at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. It is not the same either to enter primary school or secondary school, or if the student has been in school or has been out of the system for some time. "The smaller, the easier. As they grow up, they realize the differences between them and it gets complicated, "says Areñas.
In fact, the academic results at the end of the educational process crystallize the educational gap between native students and those of foreign origin. In the PISA tests, students with an immigration background score worse in the three main competences: 11 points less than the native ones in Science, 40 less in Reading and 43 less in Mathematics. PISA also notes that the sense of belonging to the center is greater among the natives. "Measures of attention to diversity are not being effective. The absenteeism and the abandonment continue increasing ", rivets Andrés Escarbajal, professor of Didactics and School Organization of the University of Murcia. According to the Ministry, premature abandonment in immigrants is 35.1% in 2018; in natives, 15.3%.
Entities such as the Adsis Foundation, which has social action programs, function as educational reinforcement where the ordinary system does not arrive. "We help in school tasks, we give personal reinforcement focusing on their skills. The system is standardized and it is difficult to adapt to diversity, "says David Alcaina, director of the Taisia center of Adsis in Valencia. Guadalupe Hernández appealed to them to look for "what the school did not give him". He arrived from Ecuador in 2002 with his children, aged 17 and six. "There is a lack of communication space between equals. The young migrants are not asked what they need. They feel excluded. My son, Josué, was given a curricular adaptation for his own good, but that is also a way of excluding him. I did not understand why he had different duties, for example, "he says.
However, experts say that the inequalities in academic results are not only influenced by the passport. Although the condition of foreigner increases the probability of abandonment by 16%, according to another ministry study, "the pocket separates more than melanin", summarizes Escarbajal. 80% of foreign students are enrolled in public schools. "Socioeconomic weight matters. Our system is quite segregating. And we demand the same from a student with complex situations that another with solved life, "laments Quintana. Ramon Simon, general director of attention to the family and the educational community of the Generalitat of Catalonia, assures that combating school segregation must be the first line of action. "You have to prevent all these students from concentrating in a certain center," he says.
In the school of the children of Mohamed El Outmani, in Mataró, there is 95% immigration. "My children have not had integration problems because most of them are Moroccans. It's as if they lived in Morocco, "he explains. He arrived in Spain in 1999; his children were born in Mataró. He wanted to change schools, but other compatriots warned him of the exclusion they experienced in centers with little immigration. "Their children suffer because they are a minority and nobody wants to play with them. Even adults are excluded from parental whatsaap groups, "he laments.
Cultural shock is not easy to manage either. "We had a girl from Pakistan whose parents refused to do Physical Education. From creating links with the family, understanding that they have another culture and empathizing, he was able to attend that class, "recalls Ramos. However, he adds, since the first waves of migrants, many stereotypes have been broken. "We have a Moroccan girl from the most soccer in the yard. It breaks the cultural and gender stereotype, "explains Xavier Murillo, director of Sant Andreu.
One of the main barriers that newcomers encounter, teachers and researchers agree, is also to understand some social conventions or mental frames. "There are no conflicts, but there are problems with codes or lack of communication. For example, if they look at me badly, I have to answer. Well, no. You have to explain to them that this is penalized here, "Quintana adds. Something like this happened to Mohamed: "My children did not look into their eyes when they spoke. And the psychologists told me they did not connect by the eyes. But in my country, looking into the eyes means challenging. Here, not looking into the eyes is disrespectful. I did not know it and when a friend told me, I taught my children to connect with their eyes, "he explains. A real intercultural model, says Escarbajal, "would imply assuming curricular practices avoiding marginalization and adding cultural elements" beyond the Europeans.
Simon points out that, at least in Catalonia, cultural conflictivity is low "and is solved in the centers". For example, on the use of the veil in the classrooms, which France banned in 2004, it states: "Sometimes it is better not to strictly regulate it and leave it to the centers, which have a more open character to address it".
The experts defend advancing towards an intercultural model, an extreme that supports, on paper, the Spanish educational system but that has not yet been translated into real practice. "Spain opted for a cultural assimilation: 'leave your culture and try to take mine.' If we do that, we avoid the construction of a first-class citizen. We must commit to an intercultural and inclusive policy and work at all levels. Also with the natives, "says Escarbajal.
More resources and training to address diversity and that socialization strategies transcend the extracurricular environment are, according to teachers, the pending subjects of the system to ensure educational success. Pàmies adds a recipe of factors for these kids to succeed: family support, the figure of a teacher who encourages and accompanies him, to live in a group without segregation and, above all, to have the support of the community, so that he does not leave their culture of origin, but coexists with both.
Strategies to integrate newcomers are not fixed. Educators adapt resources to the reality that is imposed in each case and, every so often, it is time to innovate. The phenomenon of unaccompanied minors (MENA), for example, has precipitated a different treatment. "The first thing is a legal and legal approach. Education is in the background, "explains Albert Quintana, tutor of a reception classroom in Girona. The Ministry of the Interior estimates that more than 13,000 have arrived ores to Spain, more than double than in 2017.
"Within the immigrant population there is a lot of variety. These kids who come alone do not have supports or a family network. The cultural, territorial and socioeconomic factors do influence their integration ", says David Alcaina, from the Taleia center of the Adsis Foundation. The approach, experts agree, must be disciplined. "The problem is beyond our scope of competence. The main thing is that they have a place to live. Find them a decent home and be able to assess the level of each. There are some who have been schooled and others who have not, those who have varied studies … You have to see their level and interests to apply the best resource, "says Ramón Simón, senior official of the Generalitat of Catalonia. In any case, adds Alcaina, to combat social exclusion, we must avoid perpetuating the stigma. "Young people are fresh and natural. We are the adults who contaminate them with prejudices that they do not have, "he says.