The view as described in this document is that of the authors and does not reflect necessarily the view of the organisations supporting the study.
This report was developed under the “Help to help Ukraine” Programme implemented by FONPC – with the support provided by CARE – a global confederation that has been fighting poverty and social injustice for over 75 years, through a programme coordinated and implemented at national level by SERA Romania Foundation (a non-governmental, not-for-profit, private organisation that has been active for 26 years in the field of child protection and promotion of children’s rights in Romania) with the support of FONPC (Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for Children). The research was conducted by the “Coalition for Education” Federation, in partnership with the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for Children (FONPC).
The conflict in Ukraine has led to an unprecedented influx of refugees into the European Union, particularly into neighbouring countries such as Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary. This is the largest refugee crisis worldwide, according to UNHCR data, and it is arguably the most significant crisis for Europe since World War II. Consequently, public institutions, as well as non-governmental organisations and citizens, have provided large-scale response to the situation. The majority of refugees fleeing the war left hastily, with few possessions and no clear destination, which generated a considerable need for humanitarian assistance. Despite adequate response provided by public institutions to this refugee crisis, their capacity has been insufficient due to the large number of refugees crossing borders. Therefore, the mobilisation of civil society, citizens and non-governmental organisations has played a crucial role in providing timely and adequate response to the refugee problem.
Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine until the end of July 2023, more than 138,000 Ukrainian refugees have obtained temporary protection in Romania, of which more than 45,000 were children. Access to education is one of the main needs of Ukrainian refugee children. Access to education for Ukrainian children has been greatly hampered, due to language barriers, curriculum differences, lack of recognition in Ukraine of studies completed in Romania. Children may be enrolled in the Romanian education system either as auditors, until they learn Romanian, or as students, provided that they know Romanian. One of the solutions identified for Ukrainian children who do not know Romanian was to organise educational hubs(hosted by Romanian schools, libraries or non-governmental organisations), where students learn with Ukrainian teachers, using the Ukrainian curriculum.
In partnership with SERA ROMÂNIA Foundation and CARE International, the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for Children (FONPC) supported the implementation of a support network program for 29 non-governmental organisations to collaborate with one another and support the real needs of refugees throughout their journey through Romania. Currently, these organisations provide services such as border intervention and cross-border aid, child services, healthcare and psychological support services, mobile teams, therapy and services for persons with disabilities, transit centres, integration and prevention of human trafficking services.
Goal and objectives of the study
The goal of the study “Access and integration of Ukrainian refugee children in the Romanian education system” is to provide relevant information on the integration of displaced children from Ukraine in the education system and to provide recommendations that should contribute to the development of effective educational policies and practices so that the children can benefit from access to the most adequate educational services, according to their needs and to those of their families. This approach aims at improving the quality of life of Ukrainian citizens who chose to stay in Romania and at facilitating the implementation of relevant and effective interventions in the next phase of the CARE project. The study also aims at supporting the non-governmental organisations involved in assisting Ukrainian refugees at a time when Romania needs effective integration policies.
The study had the following specific objectives:
- To present the current situation of Ukrainian children in terms of their access to education and integration into the Romanian education system (preschool, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary education), including the legal framework with barriers and opportunities
- To analyse the needs of Ukrainian children in order to be better integrated into the formal Romanian education system, as well as into various forms of informal and non-formal education.
- To present civil society efforts (NGOs working with Ukrainian refugees) to support access to formal, informal and non-formal education services.
- To develop practical solutions and recommendations to ensure optimal integration, including by analysing the complementary role the civil society can play in adapting the formal and informal education system (language courses, summer schools, curriculum, advocacy, etc.).
- To identify possible public policy scenarios to guarantee access and integration of children of Ukrainian refugees into the Romanian education system.
Use of study results
The results of the study provide an overview on the current access to education services and on the integration of Ukrainian refugee children into the Romanian education system. The study presents the current situation of Ukrainian refugee children in relation to the education system, and recommendations for ensuring their access to education services and proposals involving NGOs that already have or may have effective mechanisms for integrating children into formal, informal and non-formal education in Romania.
The research methodology involved a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, which included the analysis of primary and secondary data on the situation of Ukrainian refugees, in-depth semi-structured interviews with key persons involved in ensuring access to education for Ukrainian refugees, and focus groups with representatives of Romanian NGOs and public authorities involved in the refugee crisis, as well as with Ukrainian refugees. This mix of research methods enabled data triangulation and enhanced consistency of results and conclusions. Each of these methods is described below.
Desk research and secondary data analysis
The overview of the current situation of Ukrainian children’s access to education and integration into the Romanian education system (pre-school, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary education) is underpinned by an analysis of the existing legal framework, as well as of existing reports and data in national, European and international documents, such as the National Action Plan, the Regional Refugee Response Plan or other relevant studies published on the subject of access to education for Ukrainian refugee children.
The desk research and secondary analysis of data previously collected by other organisations or public institutions had specific objectives:
- To identify and assess any legal and administrative barriers affecting access and integration of Ukrainian children into the Romanian education system, including existing rules and regulations.
- To analyse existing opportunities and initiatives for the integration of Ukrainian children into the Romanian education system, including support programmes, policies and practices that foster the integration of Ukrainian children into Romanian schools.
Survey among Ukrainian refugees (children and adults)
One of the core components of the study was the quantitative analysis of the responses to the education component of a needs analysis developed by FONPC (https://helptohelpukraine.ro/2023/07/31/nevoile-refugiatilor-din-ucraina-ii-ro-eng-ukr/). Thus, the FONPC team distributed two separate questionnaires to Ukrainian children and adolescents on the one hand, and to Ukrainian adults on the other hand, in order to identify their needs regarding both access to education and the labour market, as well as plans for the future. Data collection took place in May and June 2023 with the use of a computer-assisted web interview methodology (a fast data collection method based on a standardised questionnaire via the internet). In total, data was collected from 1837 respondents, of which 1285 were adults and 552 children and adolescents.
The responses collected as a result of this exercise were processed using quantitative analysis methods and are included in the final study and have been used to draft public policy scenarios.
In-depth semi-structured interviews with key education stakeholders
In order to obtain in-depth information from key respondents in charge with ensuring access to education for Ukrainian refugee children, a number of 14 semi-structured interviews were conducted with key actors in the field of education, active in the context of the Ukrainian refugee crisis, more specifically representatives of central and local public authorities (ministries, school inspectorates, schools, public services), and of non-governmental organisations or of international organisations involved in projects dedicated to refugee children. Respondents were selected according to the principles of non-discrimination and equal opportunities.
The interviews covered topics related to the current situation regarding the integration of Ukrainian children into the Romanian education system (pre-school, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary education), such as:
- Ukrainian children experience in the process of integration into the Romanian education system (challenges in adapting to the Romanian education system, positive aspects, negative aspects, success stories, etc.);
- Ukrainian children access to support services and educational resources in Romanian schools (availability and effectiveness of support services – e.g., Romanian as a foreign language programmes, counselling and psychological assistance, inclusion and academic support programmes, etc.);
- School-parent-community collaboration to support the integration of Ukrainian children into the Romanian education system (engagement and cooperation to facilitate integration and overcome possible obstacles);
- Training of teachers and school staff in the context of integration of Ukrainian children;
- Review of effectiveness of policies and programmes for integration into the Romanian education system;
- Language barriers and challenges for Ukrainian children in Romanian schools;
- Social and emotional impact of integration of Ukrainian children into Romanian schools (adaptation to the new school culture, interaction with Romanian peers, strategies and resources available to support these aspects);
- Success stories and good practice examples of Ukrainian children integration into the Romanian education system (success stories, good practice examples from schools or communities, key factors that contributed to the success of the intervention);
- Legislative barriers, experienced as such during the intervention period of the projects in which they were involved;
- Recommendations and suggestions on improving existing integration policies and programmes and/or on shaping better solutions in this field.
Focus Groups with representatives of NGOs, public authorities and Ukrainian refugees
Various focus groups were conducted both with representatives of Romanian NGOs and of public authorities involved in the refugee crisis and with Ukrainian refugees in order to: 1) analyse the needs of Ukrainian children so as to become better and faster integrated into the Romanian education system, both formal and non-formal education and 2) formulate solutions and recommendations for a better integration of Ukrainian children and young people into the Romanian education system.
17 Ukrainian refugees (2 focus groups) and 26 experts and representatives of Romanian public authorities and NGOs involved in providing support to refugees (3 focus groups) participated in the focus groups held in June 2023. The discussions covered topics such as:
- Ukrainian children experience in the process of integration into the Romanian education system;
- Importance of non-formal education and extracurricular activities in supporting the integration of Ukrainian children;
- Barriers and challenges related to language, cultural differences or other issues for Ukrainian children in Romanian schools;
- The need for psychosocial support for Ukrainian children in the process of integration into the Romanian education system;
- Collaboration between schools, NGOs and institutions to promote the integration of Ukrainian children;
- Access to educational resources and additional support for Ukrainian children;
- Training of teachers and school staff in the context of integration of Ukrainian children;
- Parent and community engagement in the integration of Ukrainian children into the education system.
Development of public policy scenarios Data collection results underpinned the development of scenarios to support the access and integration of Ukrainian refugee children into the Romanian education system. These scenarios may constitute public policy options and will be presented and made available to decision-makers in public institutions with responsibilities in the field.