For the GeoCapabilities 3 project partners looked into different perspectives of migration by observing:
- the research topics of migration researchers in academic geography,
- what is taught about migration in the geography curriculum at schools,
- how teachers think of teaching migration in their classes, and
- ideas students have about migrants and migration.
Migration in school
GeoCapabilities partners interviewed teachers from 12 schools about their teaching practice and several migration experts at our universities in five countries.
Migration is taught at every school. Most of the time it is part of other themes and not a course in itself. For example as part of population, globalisation, urbanisation, regional studies and multicultural society. International population movement, push and pull model, characteristics of migrants and places of origin and destination are present at all schools. Moreover students learn about EU and US policies on migration and forced migration. Students learn map skills, using media sources and handling data.
Teachers described a variety of aims when teaching about migration: preparing for exams and learning the basics in geography, developing a sense of place, understanding the societal debate, and challenging student’s misconceptions and misrepresentation. Teachers use different sources, in the Netherlands, Flanders and France there is a stronger use of textbooks, teachers Czechia and UK rely more on their own materials. Teachers have their own personal preferences, sometimes leading to different outcomes: some teachers avoid debate and teach the phenomenon in a more distant way, others go for the debate. It is not often in the curriculum prescribed, but a matter of choice.
The teachers work in challenging circumstances and they point at some challenges in teaching migration as they wish to do:
- They face severe time constraints because of curriculum prescription, lack of perceived freedom and sometimes school pressure on performances;
- The abstract concepts and ideas related to migration are difficult to understand and relate to for the students, sometimes because of lack of vocabulary;
- Teachers are confronted with different voices, sometimes xenophobia in the classroom and this might challenge their own attitudes and values as a teacher;
- Now and then stereotype representations of migrant groups and migrant neighbourhoods are presented in textbooks or other materials.
In general the teachers thought that their students were interested in studying migration because of various reasons: the topicality of the subject, the human interest part, and the personal relevance for migrant students.
In France the students were asked about their ideas related to migration: They were influenced by the media discourse and images that are conveyed on television, in newspapers, etc. Their representation of migration and migration itself was guided by these images.
Students had initial misrepresentations. They associated migration with war. For them, migrants only came from poor countries and flee either war or poverty. The students’ representations were focused on the journey by boat or on foot. Very few students considered legal migration or North/North or South/South migration. They had a partial and summarised vision of migration.
What students think they know about migration ? (Source : survey of french students 2019)