Basic Language Courses for Integration

To accelerate employment amongst refugees, European countries in general offer integration ‘courses’. Those courses are designed to expedite the assimilation of approved asylees, helping them to obtain needed linguistic skills, as well as softer cultural skills and understanding. Such courses include a cultural “orientation” unit introducing European / national society and culture, as well as contact hours of language instruction. Most language certificates are minimum level – A1 or A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Still, low pass rates for integration courses and the CEFR language certificate are reported. In the Netherlands for example about 50% succeed in the first exam[1], and two-thirds choose he minimum level although many have a completed a secondary or even tertiary education.

Most of these courses are face-to-face and only limited online tools are used (only Skype sessions).

Online learning, and perhaps MOOCs, can be used as part of these integration and basic language courses. Firstly, as additional support (by specific apps and as online courses/MOOCs). Secondly, MOOCs might be used as a formal part of these integration courses. Many European HEIs offer MOOCs suitable for or even specially aimed at those potentially left behind (including refugees) – (Jansen & Konings, 2017).

However, it is important that there is recognition and accreditation offered by the providers of these integration and basic language courses.

In the Netherlands newly arrived migrants can select those integration and language courses out of a number of ‘recognised’ providers. They get max €10.000 as a loan – and that will be a grant if they pass the exam within three years. Research tells us that that refugees choose the easiest level although many have a higher education background in their country of origin. Success rate on an exam varies between 5% (Eritrea), 9% Ethiopia to 50% (Syria).

MOOCs in further language education and entrepreneurial skills

In addition, job-related language training courses are offered for refugees. The goal is to help trainees improve their language skills in order to graduate from vocational training programs, or gain subject-specific language knowledge. The language skills required for these programs go beyond the standard integration courses – applicants must demonstrate language skills at B1 CEFR level in order to be admitted. However, for B1 language courses also low success rate are reported (below 60% in Germany).