How to ensure that refugees  are successful in our education systems?

21 January 2022

Continent: Europe

Duration: 2020

Donor: ministries of education and employment in the Netherlands (OCW & SZW)

Partner: Multitude, see partner section of report

13 July 2020

A Dutch answer against refugee drop-outs in higher education

Basic skills, 21st century skills, and study/learning competencies, are essential for refugees and migrants to complete their studies successfully. This helps them to close knowledge gaps, uphold motivation, and work towards their ambition. These skills should be facilitated in learning trajectories with clear learning outcomes.


Almost every migrant will encounter some problems when entering education in a new country. They might have missed some education, acquired different knowledge for the same profession, or never had the opportunity to finish secondary school. In other words, knowledge gaps often exist. These knowledge gaps make it difficult for refugees and migrants to keep up with classes and content. It is easy to loose motivation, to become stressed, or to be perceived as less capable by your teacher and fellow students when you are still struggling with a language, with a different culture, and new educational content.

To reduce the knowledge gaps, Dutch (higher)vocational institutes and universities offer so called ‘transition or bridging programmes’. In these programmes refugees and migrants take classes specifically aimed at improving their knowledge on essential subjects. Such as the necessary language skills, study and learning competencies needed for dealing with the Dutch educational and societal system, as well as general subjects such as math.

Our approach

As part of the 2021 reforms, CINOP is supporting Dutch Government with the formulation of the learning outcomes for these transition or bridging programmes. Regardless of preferred level of education to enter the following skills and competencies are necessary:

  • Basic skills, such as math, Dutch, and English,
  • 21st Century skills, such as socio-cultural-, digital-, communication-, and cooperation skills
  • And study/learning competencies, such as study techniques, -styles, and –methods.

Essential in establishing these learning outcomes is to ensure that certain principles are upheld. Some examples of important principles are;

  • The equality principle (refugees and migrants should not have to prove themselves more than native students)
  • The extent to which to meet the objectives of the learning outcomes should be reasonable and effective, enough to upkeep motivation and ensure successful study completion. Not all gaps need to be closed 100%, since also native students will always enter higher education with certain knowledge gaps.
  • Learning outcomes need to be formulated on a higher abstraction level to leave room for interpretation. Schools should have the autonomy to tailor methods and approaches. For example, a study in the service sector requires more attention on communication skills, whilst a technical study will require more focus on math deficiencies.

Want to find out more about how CINOP is supporting the Dutch government in the development of learning outcomes for the refugees and migrants’ bridging programmes?

Related articles

Advisory report on learning outcomes for the educational transition route presented to the Dutch Parliament