THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOL SYSTEM

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Background

This section provides background information regarding the inclusion of refugees in mainstream schools. This systematic literature review shall be applicable for the Austrian school context. Therefore the Austrian school system and the situation of refugees in Austrian schools will be explained first. Secondly, the currently most relevant concept of education, inclusion, in connection to the Austrian situation will be presented. Finally, the barriers refugees face regarding inclusion will be described in order to understand why school-based interventions are of importance

The Austrian school system

The Austrian school system consists of nine compulsory school years. However, one year of compulsory kindergarten was implemented in the education system of Austria in order to prepare children for school. Therefore, children in Austria have to start their education at the age of five years (Bundeskanzleramt Österreich, 2017d). After one year of kindergarten, four years of primary school follow. At the age of ten, children have to choose between three kinds of secondary schools: the first stage of academic secondary school, lower secondary school or “new middle school”. Compared to other OECD countries, this is an early age for making the first choice of their further education (Nusche, Shewbridge & Lamhaug-Rasmussen, 2009). After those four years every child has to go one more year to school in order to fulfil the nine years of compulsory schooling. This one last year is either integrated in one of the many four- or five-year high school programs/second stage of academic secondary school to prepare for University, or can be absolved in a vocational school in order to prepare for a three year lasting vocational training. At the end of compulsory schooling Austrian children are usually 15 or 16 years old. (bmbf, 2016).
Nowadays Austria is a diverse country and therefore influenced by all different cultures of the students in school. Diversity and cultural differences are characterizing nowadays classrooms (Pérez-Cusó, Martínez-Clares, & González-Morga, 2014). More than 16% of the people in the whole Austrian population are born in another country or have another nationality than Austria (bifie, 2009). When only looking at the younger population, the number is rising. This results in more diverse classrooms. Children with a migration background are a heterogeneous group and differ, just like children without a migration background, in gender, age, interests, level of motivation, and many other aspects. Children with a migration background in Austria are defined with having parents born in another country. A distinction is made into two groups: children with a migration background of the first and second generation. Children of the first generation are those who are also born in another country. Children of the second generation are born in Austria but have parents who are born in another country (bifie, 2009)

Refugee and asylum seekers in Austrian Schools

The group of children with a migration background of the first generation who left their country because of life risking reasons are defined as refugees (bifie, 2009). The UN General Assembly and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (1951) define the term “refugee” in the Convention and Protocol relating the Status of Refugees as a person who due to “A well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” [Convention of 1951, Article 1A (2)]
In 1951 the Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees consisting of 24 articles was set by the UN in Geneva to ensure protection and safety for refugees. It was first implemented in Europe in thought of refugees after the Second World War. However, to meet the requirements of refugees worldwide, the Convention got revised in 1967. Austria is one of the 147 countries that affiliated the Convention and implemented it as a law (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1951). In Article 22 it is stated that the government of the signed country the refugee is currently staying in has to provide the same rights and opportunities on compulsory schooling as citizens have (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1951).
Austria uses the same definition of refugees as other OECD-countries. The term “refugee” (in German: Flüchtling) or “convention-refugee” is moreover described as a person who sought for asylum but now has positively completed the asylum application. The person can also be called “asylum qualified”. A person who is still going through the process of arriving in Austria and seeking for asylum until the asylum application is completed is called “asylum seeker” (in German: Asylwerber/in). To sum up, a person who is fleeing from her or his country and going through the refugee-process is first called “asylum seeker” and after the asylum application “refugee” (Bundesministerium für Bildung, 2016).
The difference between refugees and asylum seekers in the school context is that the chance of refugees staying in the same place is higher than for asylum seekers, who are still going through the asylum application. Therefore children who are asylum seekers often are displaced from the first school in the new country they enter due to organisational structures and regulations of the new country they arrived in (Bourgonje, 2010). Children who are fleeing with their parents or family members get the same status, “asylum seeker” or “refugee”, as their parents. However, in 2016 nearly 3.000 children under the age of 18 years arrived in Austria without parents or family members. These children are called “unaccompanied minor refugees” (in German: unbegleitete minderjährige Flüchtlinge). As soon as these children are registered in the asylum procedure, the responsible local child- and youth-service has to plead for them (Bundesministerium für Bildung, 2016).
The regulation of refugees in Austrian schools is stated in three different school-laws. These are the law of compulsory schooling (in German: Schulpflichtsgesetz), the law of classroom settings (in German: Schulunterrichtsgesetz) and the law of school organisation (in German: Schulorganisationsgesetz). The most important facts they state regarding refugees are that every child, regardless of their nationality, has to attend school and that every child who has other primary language varieties than German, is allowed to receive German language lessons. Moreover it is stated that refugees have the status of being “non-regular students” until they are able to follow the curriculum. According to the laws, they are able to follow the curriculum if their German skills are good enough to do so. It has to be mentioned, that none of the school laws include the regulation of psychological support for refugees (Bundeskanzleramt, 2017a; Bundeskanzleramt, 2017b; Bundeskanzleramt, 2017c)

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Inclusion

A current worldwide trend in education, which is also relevant in the Austrian school context, is the concept of inclusion. The most important document regarding inclusion is the Salamanca Statement (Unesco, 1994). The World Conference on Special Needs Education represents 92 governments and 25 organizations, which met in 1994 in Salamanca, Spain to ensure the commitment of Education for All (Unesco, 1994). It is stated that “Every child has a fundamental right to education, and must be given the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning; every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs; education systems should be designed and educational programs implemented to take into account the wide diversity of these characteristics and needs; and those with special educational needs must access regular schools which should accommodate them within a child-centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs; regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all; more over, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve the efficiency and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of the entire education system.” (p. viii-ix)
In Austria, a national action plan for Inclusive Education was created in 2012 with the goal of implementing fully Inclusive Education until 2020 (bmbf, 2015a). Although the goal is that all children, regardless of gender, having a disability or not, speaking the national language or not, shall be included, the planned actions mostly focus on children with disabilities and the reduction of segregating Special Schools. In addition, this action plan is called “National action plan for disabilities 2012-2020” (in German: Nationaler Aktionsplan Behinderung 2012-2020), which already indicates that the main focus is on children with disabilities. Although it is mentioned, that one goal is to include children with another mother language than German, including refugees in particular is not mentioned. Despite the fact that the Austrian school system improved in the integration of children with special needs, integration is a different concept than inclusion (Harman, 2009).
Integration focuses mostly on integrating children with learning disabilities in mainstream classrooms while inclusion is seen as a broader vision with a focus on several problems (Harman, 2009). Moreover, integrating a child in a classroom does not automatically mean that the child is included in the every-day school life (Almqvist & Granlund, 2005). This shows that, as long as a group of children, such as refugees and asylum seeking children, are not only integrated but also included, the Austrian school system is still far away from fully implementing the concept of inclusion

 Factors contributing to inclusion of refugees

In order to implement the concept of inclusion, the school environment with all its aspects has to be adjusted. Different factors can influence how successful inclusion works. As defined above, inclusion means including all children. In order to include all children, infrastructural resources have to be adapted. An open school building with classrooms that allow diversity is an important factor for inclusion (Vislie, 2010). When focusing on including refugee students, it is important to ensure a safe and protecting environment to support traumatized children to cope with trauma related symptoms, for example avoiding hard noises, pictures, or behaviour that could remind of war (Bourgonje, 2010). Other important factors are teaching skills and teacher’s attitudes. The attitudes of teachers can influence the overall school performance of children in a classroom (Ennis, 1998). Furthermore, inclusion can only work, if teachers have the ability and skills to use methods, which support the diversity of children. This means not only differing between children with and without disabilities. Looking at the refugee context, teachers need to 5 consider the different language varieties in a classroom as well as other shaping cultural aspects. It is also worth noting that factors such as the school’s policies and legislations can influence the inclusion of refugee children (Taylor & Sidhu, 2011).
Not only externalizing aspects of the environment can contribute to the inclusion of refugee children, also internalizing factors of the refugee itself can influence the inclusion. Research conducted by Almqvist and Granlund (2005) shows that internalizing aspects, such as motivation to participate in the everyday school-life, autonomy, and locus of control are positively contributing to including children in the social life. If a child is traumatized and experiences several post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, e.g. anxiety, or is suffering from other mental health issues, the inclusion into social as well as academic life can be a barrier. Trauma symptoms can therefore build a blockade in refugee children. Therefore, it is important to support mental health of students in order to ensure inclusion (Hamilton & Moore, 2004).

Barriers refugees face in mainstream schools

Children who are refugees or asylum seekers usually get integrated in compulsory classrooms or in separate classrooms for refugees within a few days after their arrival in an OECD-country (Bourgonje, 2010). The challenges of adapting to a new culture and creating a new home can cause emotional stress, which can influence the behaviour and academic achievements of a child (Milkie & Warner, 2011). In order to point out where and why interventions are necessary, the following paragraphs describe different barriers that can influence the inclusion of students who are refugees or asylum seeking:

Trauma and risk of mental health problems

The development of mental health of a child is dependable on three aspects: a sense of security, a supportive social network, and opportunities to grow and discover their own potentials and interests. Refugee children often experience a lack of safety to achieve emotional competences, which might lead to low capacity of resilience. Therefore, children who are refugees have a greater risk of developing mental health problems than children who do not go through the process of flight (Van der Veer, 1998). The process of migration can cause traumas, which can disrupt the mental health of a human being. Fleeing from home and therefore experiencing displacement is one of the most impacting traumas and experiences of loss children who are refugees can face (Fullilove, 1996). Traumas can happen in three different stages of migration. Traumas can occur during war, which are therefore traumas of pre-migration. During the process of flight and in transition institutions such as refugee camps, traumas are called traumas of trans-migration. Traumatic experiences can also occur when already settling in the new country and would therefore be defined as traumas of post-migration. Examples for post-migration trauma in school can happen due to a lack of expression of needs and feelings because of language barriers as well as discrimination due to racism or other acculturation issues. Factors that can help to deal with traumatic experiences in either of the different stages of migration are cognitive competences, selfesteem, coping strategies, a stable emotional relationship with a caregiver or other contact person and access to social services outside of the family (Hamilton & Moore, 2004).
Not all refugee children might show clinical symptoms as a result of trauma. However, every refugee experiences some degree of trauma regarding their background of disruptive family, school life, losses of family and/or friends, effects of war and the family reunification and resettlement issues as a result of flight (Hamilton & Moore, 2004). As already mentioned, symptoms that can occur because of traumas are called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD symptoms can be divided into four kinds of symptoms: affective, physical, cognitive, and behavioural indicators.
Affective indicators include pessimism, depression, anxiety, guilt, anger, grief and detachment. Physical indicators can be for example nightmares and headaches. Cognitive indicators can be self-blame, loss of interest, impaired memory, suicidal thoughts and lack of concentration. Behavioural indicators are for example isolation, withdrawal or repetitive play. These symptoms can have great impact on the every-day life of children, which includes social life in school as well as academic school performance (Hamilton & Moore, 2004).
Schools play an important role when it comes to adjustment to a new country and mental health of children (Taylor & Sidhu, 2011). Although children who are refugees are usually faster adapting to new situations than adults, research conducted by Rousseau, Drapeau, and Corin (1998) shows that a significant number of children experience emotional problems on resettlement in school (Hamilton & Moore, 2004).

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Language barrier

Arriving in a new country, attending a new school, and adapting to a new culture often also includes needing to learn a new language. The difficulty for refugees is not only that they might be traumatized from pre- or trans- migration, also the fact that they cannot express their needs and feelings through their primary language varieties can lead to more traumatic experiences and increase the risk of PTSD-symptoms. Language barriers are one of the biggest challenges when it comes to migration and language support is not well established and supported in every OECD-country (Hamilton & Moore, 2004). According to McBrien (2005) advanced language skills are a predictor for positive adjustments with regard to academic performance in school, social inclusion, and positive acculturation. Therefore, limited language skills might be a risk factor for building social relationships such as friendships in school. As a consequence, limited time spending with the native children of the new country can hinder refugees from learning the new language (Richardson, 2008). This shows that second language acquisition should therefore be one of the main and earliest addressed interventions in the migration process.

Teacher’s attitudes

Not only the fact that refugee children are traumatised and in need of learning a new language, also teachers can barrier the inclusion of refugee children in schools (Bourgonje, 2010). Not only do refugees have to adapt to a new school environment but also teachers and the school as a whole have to adapt to the newly arriving children and their needs (Taylor & Sidhu, 2011). Teachers are the only professionals who work with refugees every day, which means that they can have a big impact on the inclusion of refugees in mainstream schools (bmbf, 2015). Teachers often feel a big need for protecting and helping refugee children in school but also when it comes to their outside of school needs. Often there is a lack of information about the refugee child, his or her family and their story, as well as methods to cope with refugee children. It can happen that teachers internalize the pain and trauma refugee students are going through and experience trauma themselves. This can lead to a decrease of confidentiality of the teachers and doubting about their abilities. Other teachers might show rigid and distancing behaviour towards the refugee children as a consequence to protect themselves (Fox, 1995).
The expectations of a teacher can influence the behaviour of the teacher in the classroom and the interaction between teachers and students. Based on the expectations of a teacher regarding levels of achievement, teachers moderate their interactions with students (Ennis, 1998). It is suggested that teachers who have rigid stereotypes and social class biases and who tend to treat students different due to their high and low achievements are more likely to hold negative expectations (Hamilton & Moore, 2004; Ennis, 1998). Refugees have very different cultural characteristics and might follow different values, which can lead to potential for conflicting stereotypes or biases. This can have negative influences on the student-teacher relationship. Therefore, teachers cannot only be the most supportive recourses when including refugees, but also a significant risk factor or barrier (Hamilton & Moore, 2004)

Acculturation and identity problems

Being in a new country, attending a new school and learning a new language can lead to self-questioning of refugee children about where they belong or where they feel at home. For refugee children it can be very difficult to find out how to build and see their own identity next to all the challenges they face during the migration process. Berry (1987) describes four acculturation strategies that human beings use when they have to re-establish their lives in a new country and culture. These are: assimilation, integration, separation and marginalization.
Assimilation means adapting to a new culture while abandoning the own culture. Integration is the adoption of aspects of the new culture while maintaining the own culture. Separation means rejecting the new culture while maintaining the own culture and marginalization means not joining the new culture and also not maintaining the own culture. Integration is seen as being the most positive form of acculturation. However, acculturative stress can produce feelings of isolation, sadness and depression, which as a consequence can barrier adapting to the new school environment and can affect the inclusion in the new school (Hamilton & Moore, 2004).
In order to point out possibilities for improving the refugee situation in Austrian schools, the aim of this study is to provide a summary of possible school based interventions, which can support the inclusion of children who are refugees or asylum seeking in mainstream compulsory schools. However, due to the fact that there is a limited amount of research studies about refugees in mainstreams schools in Austria, studies from Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries were included. OECD countries increase the generalizability to the Austrian refugee situation compared to non-OECD countries (Churchill, 1986). The research questions are:
1.)  What types of school-based interventions have been implemented in mainstream classes to support inclusion of refugees in OECD countries?
2.)What are the outcomes of the interventions

1 INTRODUCTION 
2 BACKGROUND 
2.1 THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOL SYSTEM
2.2 INCLUSION
2.3 BARRIERS REFUGEES FACE IN MAINSTREAM SCHOOLS
3 METHOD 
3.1 SEARCH PROCEDURE
3.2 SELECTION PROCESS
3.3 DATA EXTRACTION
3.4 PEER REVIEW
4 RESULTS
4.1 DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDIES
4.2 TYPES OF INTERVENTION
4.3 INTENDED OUTCOME OF THE INTERVENTIONS
4.4 OUTCOMES OF INTERVENTIONS
5 DISCUSSION 
5.1 PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR AUSTRIAN MAINSTREAM SCHOOLS
5.2 LIMITATIONS AND METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES
5.3 FUTURE RESEARCH
6 CONCLUSION 
REFERENCES
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