Romania integrated a limited number of Ukrainian refugee students in its schools i the wake of Russia’s aggression, as compared to other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, and Ukrainian children had to overcome a considerable number of barriers, beyond the major language barrier, according to data collected in a report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Romania declares a series of measures to aid the Ukrainian children overcome this structural barrier, but less so when it comes to other obstacles, such as a lack of learning space/materials.
OECD’s most recent “Education at a Glance” report, published on Tuesday, includes a chapter on the situation of Ukrainian refugee children and information on the issue also appears in the country data of the document.
When it comes to Romania, it mentions that the country integrated some 1,700 Ukrainian students at primary school level and some 1,500 students at secondary school level in the 2022-2023 year. It also mentions educational hubs for Ukrainian students which were organised in some cities across the country, as a result of collaboration between local authorities, schools and NGOs.
The OECD analysis synthesises the support provided by a series of countries to Ukrainian refugee children and links to another in-depth report on the topic, based on a survey which it ran in early 2023 and published this summer.
What does this report say about Romania?
The Survey on Ensuring Continued Learning of Ukrainian Refugee Students shows Romania took a substantial set of measures to support the integration of Ukrainian students and help them overcome the most significant structural barrier – the language one. But report data show that the country took few measures to help them overcome other obstacles. And the country managed to integrate a low number of Ukrainian refugee students starting with pre-school level and continuing all the way to upper secondary school.
With 1,713 students reported at primary school level and 1,471 in lower secondary school, Romania is one of the countries with the fewest integrated Ukrainian refugee students in the region – even fewer than in Estonia, Lithuania or Hungary and way fewer than the record breaking host country in the region, Poland.
At pre-primary level, Romania reports a singnificant growth as compared to the previous year: from 999 children in kindergartens to 1,729 în year 2022-2023. But the numbers are low – similar to much smaller countries such as Estonia or Latvia and way below Poland.
Romania reports all forms of school integration, from preparatory classes to dedicated programs and the integration of refugee children in normal classes.
On the other hand, it is one of the only two countries included in the report, along Finland, which mark all the structural barriers that may appear for Ukrainian children, at all levels – primary, lower secondary and upper secondary school: the lack of space/material resources, the language barrier, the non-mandatory status of schooling and the lack of teaching staff.
Romania also marks only two of the personal barriers faced by refugees – concerns on the future recognition of skills and the intention to return to their home country. Romania does not see any problem when it comes to access of information on how to enrol in school or to the integration of Ukrainian families.
Measures taken to overcome barriers
The OECD report on the topic shows Romania counts three of the four key measures considered for supporting Ukrainian refugees in overcoming the language barrier: the creation of bilingual/Ukrainian language materials, language courses, recruitment of Ukrainian-speaking personnel. It did not apply the measure of creating temporary classes to receive Ukrainian children.
On the other hand, the measures are limited when it comes to other structural barriers – the lack of teachers, of space or of material resources.
In this case Romania reports creating temporary classes, but nothing for other measures such as the recruitment of teacher assistants, the recruitment of teachers or establishing Ukrainian-only schools. Only two countries in the report – Romania and Germany – select a single measure on this issue.
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